By Rep. Mike Sanders
Earlier this month I took part in an interim study on the funding for regional juvenile detention centers.
The 18 centers provide more than 300 beds for youthful offenders in places as scattered as Hooker, Oklahoma, in the panhandle, to the LeFlore County Juvenile Detention Center in Talihina. Our own Canadian County Juvenile Justice Center was held up as a very successful model of how counties can partner with the state to meet the needs of detaining troubled youths in their own communities.
The study was requested after the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) earlier this year threatened to close several of the smaller centers after a change in the agency’s funding formula put it at odds with the operators of the centers.
During the study, lawmakers heard from detention center operators, law enforcement and judges who described the need for these centers. We also heard from the director of the OJA. Several presenters explained that without these facilities, they would be forced to use law enforcement to shuttle youth to even further corners of the state, far from family members and any community support they might hope to have during and on exit from the programs.
It’s clear that we need to find a way to work with OJA while maintaining the funding for these centers. The work they do toward rehabilitating and educating our detained youth is significant.
Other studies have focused on recouping the outstanding debt owed to state agencies, which will help shore up the state budget; improving healthcare outcomes, particularly in rural communities; and whether there is a need for special licensing or increased fines for hunting and fishing game guides who illegally trespass on privately owned land.
I’ll be reading notes from each of the studies and listening to the audio from the presentations as I prepare for the next legislative session to help guide the legislation I plan to file as well as to determine which measures I will support.
Also this week at the Capitol, AAA hosted its first Impaired Driving Summit to examine issues related to substance-impaired driving, particularly resulting from the abuse of prescription painkillers and illegal drugs. The hope is to develop a strategy to reduce the number of accidents on Oklahoma roads resulting from impaired driving.
The event planner pointed out that there already are measures in place to detect and reduce alcohol-impaired driving, but drug-impairment recognition presents unique challenges.
As with the interim studies, I will be taking a close look at the discussions resulting from this study and any action steps suggested as I consider future legislation.
To see a calendar of future interim studies by committee, click the link below, then select to view by the week or month: http://www.okhouse.gov/Committees/MeetingNotices.aspx
As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.