After the death of a 16-year old detainee in May, a judge has ordered speedier processing for juveniles held at the Oklahoma County Detention Center.
A new order issued Thursday by Oklahoma County Presiding Judge Thomas Prince requires an assessment for all minors charged as youthful offenders held at the county jail within three days. The assessments will be used to weigh any security and health concerns before transferring them to juvenile detention.
Previously, juveniles in Oklahoma County charged with serious crimes such as rape, arson and robbery under the state’s youthful offender law could be held at the county jail for weeks or months as their cases progressed through the system, said Bob Ravitz, Oklahoma County chief public defender.
Under Prince’s order, juveniles booked into the jail are required to be promptly assessed for factors including, health and social history, the nature of their charges and history of delinquency to determine if they are low- risk enough to be held in juvenile detention.
“It’s far more progressive than what most jurisdictions in the state are doing. But it’s the right thing to do because it protects everybody,” Ravitz said.
Over the past week, there has been confusion over which juveniles should be held at jail.
Last week, Prince ordered juveniles held at the jail to be moved to the county juvenile detention facility. But three minors charged as adults with first-degree murder immediately moved back to the jail, said Mark Myers, a spokesman for the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office. State law requires juveniles over age 13 charged with murder to be prosecuted as adults and held at the jail.
The changes come after 16-year old John Leroy Daniel Applegate died May 1, nine days after attempting to hang himself from a light fixture at the Oklahoma County Detention Center.
Applegate had been held at the jail since Feb. 4 in lieu of a $150,000 bond. He was charged with first-degree rape, rape by instrumentation, assault with a dangerous weapon, obstructing an officer and resisting arrest.
The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth and the Oklahoma Juvenile Authority began reviewing how the state houses juveniles charged with serious crimes after Applegate’s death.
OJA spokesman Michael McNutt said the agency offered legal guidance to Prince and Oklahoma County District Judge Trevor Pemberton, who oversees juvenile cases at the county.
“The Office of Juvenile Affairs provided legal background on the state’s Youthful Offender Act as well as how other counties deal with the law,” McNutt said in an email. “It is not uncommon for those involved with the Youthful Offender Act to seek our opinion and suggestions on matters concerning the act, including information on how jurisdictions across the state address similar issues.”