|Updated: 1/15 11:14 pm
||Published: 1/15 11:02 pm
In April Tulsa voters will decide whether to extend a sales tax so the Tulsa County Jail can fund an expansion, and build a new juvenile justice center. The Sheriff and others who work at those facilities are hosting town hall meetings for taxpayers to give input.
FOX 23 was recently given a tour of the juvenile facility to see what they’re trying to work with.
“Upkeep on this building is astronomical. We have pipes that bust. We have water seeping up into the building on the inside,” said Juvenile Justice Center Assistant Director Shonn Harrold.
The center isn’t just having infrastructure problems. The building is bursting at the seams. Even the parking lot is 50 to 100 spaces short of what they need on any given day.
“We’ve outgrown this, not just the facility itself, but also the area that it’s built on. We can’t go up, we can’t go out. It’s all we have now,” said Harrold.
Caseworkers, public defenders, judges and district attorneys are literally running out of room in a building made for 50 employees. There are around 150 of them now storing files in the hallways and getting very creative with about office space.
“This office was literally a broom closet. That was turned into an office,” said Harrold as he showed FOX 23 a caseworker in her office.
The Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court says it’s a much bigger problem than them being crowded. When she gets a call about an offender on the way in, she’s had to decide who to let go to make room for the new person.
“This is one of our courtrooms. Actually the fire marshal has told us there can only be a certain number of people can be in here,” said Harrold, showing us what has to be the smallest courtroom in Tulsa County.
That number, by the way, is eight. Add up the attorney, district attorney, a court reporter, court clerk, judge, bailiff and DCS representative—that doesn’t leave any room for a juvenile defendant and their family—let alone a jury.
There are four courtrooms and only two can handle jury trials. Chief Judge Doris Fransein says time is of the essence when kids have to face up to their actions.
“I mean what good is it to bring in a delinquent who’s committed an act months ago and just now getting to a jury trial?” asked Judge Fransein at Tuesday’s town hall meeting.
The court uses jury trials to terminate parental rights. When a kid has to wait months for that to happen, those are months that could have been spent finding them an adoptive, stable home.
District Attorney Tim Harris also spoke at Tuesday’s town hall meeting. He says it costs taxpayers less when juveniles can have a positive life changing experience with the juvenile system.
“Your tax dollars are going to be used one way or another and you get a bigger bang for your tax dollar buck on the front end of diverting these children isn a facility that will help us be successful with them,” said District Attorney Harris.
The Tulsa County Sheriff invited anybody who wants to see these issues at the juvenile justice center to take a tour.
There are five town hall meetings left:
Thursday, January 16 Rudisill North Library Frossard Auditorium 8316 E 93rd St., Tulsa
Thursday, January 16 Meeting Hall at Central on Main 210 N Main, Broken Arrow
Tuesday, January 21 TCC West Campus Student Center Auditorium 7505 W 41st St., Tulsa
Wednesday January 22 South County (Jenks/Glenpool) Community Center 13800 S Pioria Ave., Glenpool
Thursday January 23 Owasso Community Center 301 S Cedar St., Owasso