Editorial: Over the six and one half years I spent as a Tulsa County commissioner I became very aware of the need for a new juvenile justice facility and for additional pods at the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center.
For decades, the facilities at the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau have been inadequate. Most people assume that it simply is a place where juvenile delinquents are held in detention awaiting a judicial decision. The fact is the center handles thousands of family matters where children are in need of protection, care & placement.
The needs for office space, private rooms, courtrooms and administrative support staff offices are overwhelming. The facilities were designed in the 1960s when a staff of 50 could handle the workload. Today, that staff is 150 and the workload is in the thousands of families and children.
Regarding the jail: Over the past several years the state has either closed or seriously reduced funding for mental facilities. In their place were supposed to be community and home-based treatment alternatives. That never materialized as many had hoped. As a result, many people with mental health issues end up in jail. The Tulsa Jail is the largest mental health facility in eastern Oklahoma.
On Tuesday, Tulsa County residents will vote on two very important questions: Do we vote to dedicate a small sales tax (less than 1/10th of a cent) to build a new, long overdue juvenile justice center and to add mental health pods to the jail?
For city of Tulsa residents and those who shop in Tulsa, there will be NO tax increase because a current tax is set to expire in June and this will replace it. In the rest of the county, the sales tax will go up less than 1/10th of a penny. Voters should keep in mind that this type of sales tax isn’t charged on many large ticket items such as automobiles and boats.
If this measure passes, the value to public safety from these facilities will be significant. More of the kids who go into the juvenile justice center will be redirected to a more productive path in life. Those in jail with mental illness will get the treatment they need and we can begin to address the root causes for their criminal behavior.
This is also a quality of life issue. The streets will be safer. The outcomes for those juveniles and adults in our justice system will be better. And because these improvements are so overdue, it’s the right thing to do.
I hope Tulsa County citizens will join me in voting “yes” for the “Protect Our County” propositions on Tuesday.