Oklahoma’s juvenile justice system reflects some of the same shortcomings as that of adult offenders in the state, according to a report released Monday.
“Historically, Oklahoma has fallen on the side of punishment over rehabilitation and has only implemented significant protections for children in its justice system when a legal action specifically requires it,” the report says. report.
The report chronicles some of these lawsuits and notes recent reforms, but concludes that “Oklahoma’s historic legacy continues in the form of continued disinvestment in communities and families.”
The 80-page document “Better Tomorrows: A Landscape Analysis of Oklahoma’s Youth Justice System and Suggested Reforms,” written by Ashley Harvey of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, combines data and more than 60 interviews including children in the system, their parents and the organizations concerned.
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Oklahoma Bureau of Juvenile Justice Executive Director Rachel Holt, who was part of a panel discussion accompanying the report’s release, told her staff that “juvenile justice should mean juvenile justice.” . My goal is that every child who touches this system is treated the same.
“It’s not… Perry Mason,” said Holt, a former Oklahoma County assistant district attorney. “Juvenile justice done well is a collaboration.”
Progress has been made, the report says. Referrals – a formal complaint or report alleging a juvenile offense – have fallen by more than half over the past decade. Most referrals are for minor offenses, and the overwhelming majority of youth placed in diversion programs instead of custody successfully complete them.
But the report also found wide variations in the types of services and programs available, enforcement, and even referral rate. He also revealed that children of color were much more likely than whites to be arrested and incarcerated.
The report’s recommendations include:
Eliminate fines and court fees for minors and their families.
Provide quality legal advice for children involved in the justice system.
Establish a minimum age of criminal responsibility in Oklahoma.
Increase transparency and accountability with clearly defined reporting.
Better engagement of families by relevant agencies.
Invest in Oklahoma families.
Expand and expand support services, especially in rural areas.
Fully fund core services and organizations in the youth justice sector.
Breaking the Cycle: Tulsa World’s 8-Day Negative Childhood Experiences (ACE) Series
Oklahoma ranks high for several social ills that have been linked to negative childhood experiences (ACE) scores. Some examples :
Tulsa World ACEs Advisory Board
Kristin Atchley uses past trauma to advocate for children struggling with adverse conditions
Podcast: Hear the story behind Tulsa World’s special report on negative childhood experiences
The podcast, hosted by Matt Gleason with the Mental Health Association Oklahoma, includes interviews with three people who played key roles on the show.
Lucinda Morte is a mental health professional who has a relatively high ACE score herself.
Donavon Ramsey is a resilient 19-year-old with a high ACE score and plenty of heartbreaking stories.
Ashley Parrish, associate editor of Tulsa World, who oversaw the year-long process to make Breaking the Cycle a reality.
“The Mental Health Download” shares stories each month about mental illness, homelessness, incarceration and suicide, and how each can have a profound impact on our lives.