By TERRY A. SIMONSON
We’ve often heard how sometimes bad things happen to good people. With kids, sometimes good kids come from a bad place. Before they ever get really started on a life of opportunities they are robbed of the chance.
At the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau it’s their purpose to take these falling stars and make them rising stars by providing a caring direction to their lives. With a professional staff working around these kids, a circle of hope is created. Hope for a better education, hope for better relationships, and hope that they, too, can see a meaning and purpose for their life. Their purpose is to give these kids a purpose.
At the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau it is their mission to serve each child and family in a setting that is safe, fair, just, and dignified and mindful of the respect and needs of all we serve. For the time the child and family are in the system, they serve as another parental presence in the child’s life.
The Oklahoma Legislature created the first juvenile court in Oklahoma in Tulsa County in 1949. In 1969 the juvenile center and detention home were opened to provide a facility for the services administered by the Juvenile Bureau under the direction of the Juvenile Court. Forty years later, the Juvenile Court and Juvenile Bureau still occupy the same facility and time has taken its toll. In 2008 there were over 5500 juvenile cases brought through the facility. And with over 200 on site and off site professional’s staff utilizing the facility as part of the juvenile justice process, no longer can it be claimed that we are serving our purposes fairly, justly or safely.
For decades every community has had to respond to the consequences of a failed or broken family situation. All too often we deal not with the cause but with the results of this. Most often the greatest impact of the ills and failings of our society fall upon our children and youth. In every generation it’s the role and responsibility of the adults to care and guide the upbringing of our children. Not just for the obedient, the achiever, and the well adjusted but more importantly for those whose environment destroy their chance. At the Juvenile Bureau they see their role to assemble the best professionals in their field and, within the juvenile justice process, develop a complete approach to rehabilitation, recovery, and reentry back into the community. They know if we fail at this role that in time society will once again be confronted with the problems of this child. As Sheriff Stanley Glanz has said: “The problem starts when they are young-if you don’t correct their behavior now, be prepared to spend more money in the long run. It’s much cheaper to fix it on the front end, than back end. This need was identified ten years ago-we have a responsibility to our community to get it done now.”
The inadequacy of our juvenile justice facilities cannot be overstated. It’s difficult at best to gain control of the chaos in a child’s but it’s near impossible when your facilities can not provide a sense of justice, orderliness, safety, and dignity. That’s why it’s time, after 40 years, for the Tulsa community to come together in support of our need for a new juvenile justice complex which:
The Tulsa County Commissioners are aggressively taking on this challenge. They have committed the dedicated Four to Fix funds which were designated for the Juvenile Justice Center to find a new location for the future construction of a Juvenile Justice Center. They have also hired Selser Schaefer Architects, who have teamed with national firms that have a reputation for designing state of the art juvenile facilities, to begin the layout of a new facility. And in this last legislative session, $1million dollars was appropriated to assist with this effort. The Commissioners have also asked Congressman John Sullivan and Senator Jim Inhofe to help at the Federal level anyway they can.
As County Commissioner Karen Keith has said: “The need for a facility to support our juvenile justice system is well established and well overdue. How a community responds to those in need, especially our youth, says a great deal about the soul of that community. I am convinced that Tulsa will meet this urgent challenge with the same spirit and commitment that has been demonstrated for decades.”
Terry A. Simonson serves as director of development and government affairs and public information officer for Tulsa County