Politics and Government
7:36 am
Sun July 20, 2014

Office of Juvenile Affairs Cuts Funds to Community Intervention Centetrs

The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs
Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs
Credit Office of Juvenile Affairs

Community intervention centers were the hot topic during the Friday meeting of Office of Juvenile Affairs Board of Directors. A meeting was able to be held Friday, unlike in June which failed due to a lack of a quorum. Suspicions had run high that the lack of a quorum was a tactical move to keep the ample audience from voicing concern at the budget cut for community intervention centers (CICs).

Board member Richard Rice, the missing board member who audience and other board members spent an hour waiting on for last month's meeting, publicly apologized Friday saying he "simply could not get out of the courtroom."

The number of those in attendance at this meeting was drastically different than those audience members from last month's meeting, but, nonetheless, several public comments were made about the cut of appropriations to CICs. A cut of 1.75 percent was cut from Youth Services, and an additional estimate of $610,000 was cut specifically from CIC budgets.

OJA Executive Director Keith Wilson said that the cuts came after a "necessary" cost-benefit analysis. Since then, he has been in talks with the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, impressing upon them the dire budget situation. Wilson said that "the situation that the Legislature and the governor have put us in is just critical" and "something that the Legislature should look at in the upcoming year."

Lisa Winters, executive director of Crossroads Youth and Family, spoke specifically to the board about the lack of communications in making this budget decision.

"I've spent almost 40 years in the business and been with this agency going on 24 years," said Winters. "There is collaboration that seem to be missing lately from OJA. This program benefits the children and it benefits the family. These programs have been slashed without discussion. Where is the collaboration? I ask that you reconsider the way you manage this agency."

David Grewe, with Youth Services of Tulsa, expressed his concern about such programs going extinct with such a detrimental cut.

"One of the things I'm very proud in the work that the CICs is doing is I see it as an early intervention program that 80 percent of those young people who come in as a first time offender, we never see again," said Grewe. "If you've worked in this field for any length of time you know that in providing early intervention you break the pattern of juvenile delinquency. With these cuts of $75,000 or more to the Tulsa area CIC we are concerned that this program will not survive, that there will be more kids entering into the juvenile justice system and we'll have more work to do on the OJA system."

Members of the Oklahoma law enforcement community also commented on the reduction of money to CICs explaining that a decrease in funding means a decrease of officers on the street. Deputy Chief of Operations with Oklahoma City Police Department Tom Jester said that "the CIC here in Oklahoma City is a big part of law enforcement and the Oklahoma City police department."

"Whenever we opened up our first CIC in Oklahoma City everything turned around and changed," said Jester. "Whenever we come into custody of children…we take them to the CIC and they're handled the way they ought to be handled now -- professionally, humanely. It's a great program and the thing that I like best about it is that it allows policemen to be policemen. It's very expensive for the citizens of Oklahoma City for policemen patrolling the streets and instead of having officers that hour after hour basically babysitting juveniles, now we're out in a matter of minutes doing what used to sometimes take half a day sometimes trying to find what we would do with a juvenile.

"It's not very often that you see a government program that works together so well and it is so efficient and so effective. It really, really works well and I'm hoping that you guys will be able to continue to fund the CICs because it just works."

Keith Humphrey, police chief with the Norman Police, gave his point of view from previous experience in Texas and how the program was of benefit.

"I will tell you that in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in the state of Texas, police chiefs, police departments, police officers would have given anything for a program as valuable and as important as our CICs program. There was no program like this," said Humphrey. "This gives our juveniles and their parents an opportunity to be successful. This program provides an opportunity not only for the children but for their parents to receive services and resources that they might not ever [otherwise] get to see."

"This is an outstanding program. I'll be honest with you; I don't see how anybody can even think about reducing the funding of this program," said Humphrey. "You take this program away I guarantee you that you're going to start seeing some of these same kids that we were able to provide resources for, you're going to see them in the future and I can tell you right now, that's going to be on you guys. Because we are doing all that we can do to keep our community safe. It would be devastating to the state of Oklahoma."