Juvenile Affairs director punished for not moving youths

Thursday, May 15th 2008, 5:54 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

Attorneys for the Oklahoma County Juvenile Detention Center said Gene Christian, the Executive Director Office of Juvenile Affairs, is to blame for issues concerning the overcrowding of the facility.

"I'm very concerned when they said as a director of a state agency, that I am in contempt," said Christian.

Christian said the task his agency was given was impossible. On April 3, a court ordered Christian to get youthful offenders out of the detention center and into a state youth treatment facility within 45 days.

"Our argument which has always been our argument is we have no objections to doing that if we had a bed," Christian said.

Both the county detention center and the three state youth facilities remains over capacity, and Christian said his agency couldn't move the youths.

Oklahoma County Public Defender Bob Ravitz disagreed.

"OJA had an opportunity if they disagreed with Judge Kirby, or thought he was wrong with the law, to appeal it," Ravitz said.

The purpose of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate, and Ravitz said the youthful offenders cannot begin that process if they're sitting in a holding center.

"Something has got to give and OJA has to come up with programs that these kids can go to, and until that, we're just going to have severe problems," Ravitz said.

To help with the overcrowding issues, OJA has asked that state legislature for funds to build a new youthful offender facility.

Until the plan begins, however, Christian said he's not willing to put the youths in danger.

"If we are incapable of complying...we just don't have the beds, then are we to jeopardize the youths' safety just to comply with an order?" Christian said.

On June 3, the case will begin in which a judge will decide Christian's punishment.