By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Juvenile offenders from other counties will continue to stay at Canadian County’s juvenile detention center.
That’s because Canadian County Commissioners on June 27 approved contacts between the Gary E. Miller Canadian County Children’s Justice Center (CCCJC) and 22 counties “for the provision to secure juvenile detention services” for fiscal year 2023.
The vote was 2-1, as it has been for several years.
Once again voicing his opposition was District 1 Commissioner Marc Hader, who pointed out that ballot language approved by voters 26 years ago to build the sales tax-funded facility only provided for Canadian County juveniles to be housed there.
“I love kids from all over the world,” Hader said in what has become an annual explanation. “When the question was passed in 1996, it was to tax Canadian County citizens to serve Canadian County kids.”
In the 1996 election, Canadian County voters approved establishing a .35% countywide sales tax to fund construction and ongoing operations of a juvenile detention facility and other juvenile programs.
Commissioner Hader said he’d support serving “out-of-county kids” in Canadian County’s juvenile detention facility if a new ballot measure was passed by voters to allow that.
NOT A ‘CAPACITY ISSUE’
District 3 County Commissioner Jack Stewart supports allowing other counties to use available juvenile detention bed space in Canadian County.
“This is a deal that has shown by having these contracts, we actually get to keep more of our own kids in (the center),” Stewart said. “From a cost perspective, it’s not a money loser – it’s a money maker.”
Stewart did say he agrees “in principle” with Hader since Canadian County’s juvenile detention center houses other juveniles besides those from Canadian County.
“That portion of the facility is hardly ever full,” Stewart noted. “It’s not like we’re not having to ‘turn people away’ because it’s overcrowded with out-of-county (juveniles).
“At least up to this point, it’s not been a capacity issue whatsoever by having these contracts.”
Canadian County Commission Chairman Dave Anderson agreed.
“If there ever came a time when Canadian County kids couldn’t be held in our detention facility due to the fact that these contract beds were full, then I would have an issue,” he said.
The State of Oklahoma pays 85% of the cost for the CCCJC to hold juvenile offenders from other counties, Anderson explained.
Juvenile detention contracts approved by the 2-1 vote June 27 were with these counties:
Blaine, Bryan, Caddo, Custer, Garfield, Grady, Jackson, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Love, Major, Marshall, Payne, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Rogers, Seminole, Stephens, Texas, Tillman, Tulsa, and Woodward.