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Officials break ground on improvements to Tecumseh juvenile center

TECUMSEH — Gov. Mary Fallin joined officials with the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs on Wednesday in breaking ground on the first phase of a next generation campus for juvenile offenders.

Oklahoma has operated three secure facilities for juvenile offenders in recent years but plans to consolidate those operations in the refurbished Tecumseh campus.

“By having this one centralized facility, OJA will address technology inefficiencies, improve medical and treatment services, provide equitable education for all youth placed in secure facilities, and save money in transportation and travel,” Fallin said.

The governor was raised in Tecumseh, where the new campus is being constructed on the grounds of the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center.

Girls from an 18-bed Norman center were transferred to the Tecumseh campus in August and boys in the 60-bed Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou will be transferred there later.

The new project is designed to be a state-of-the-art therapeutic campus for young people requiring secure-care treatment, officials said.

Current campus buildings will be refurbished and new cottages will be built to house residents. Work is being done in stages, with the project expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Plans are to build up to nine 16-bed cottages that will provide new living quarters for all the residents. The Office of Juvenile Affairs has the flexibility to scale back the project if the number of juveniles coming into the system continues to decline as it has in recent years.

Legislation was passed by lawmakers and signed by Fallin in 2017 authorizing the issuance of $45 million in bonds to fund construction.

Steven Buck, executive director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs, said consolidating campuses will save the state money and the agency expects to be able to pay the bonds off without asking for increased appropriations.

“This next generation campus demonstrates our state's commitment to providing secure, juvenile justice services in a setting specifically built to facilitate rehabilitation for young people needing this level of care,” Buck said.

Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›