Home News Center Oklahoma Bans Detention for Youth 12 and Under

Oklahoma Bans Detention for Youth 12 and Under

June 29, 2020
Courtney M. McSwain

NJJN Member
Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) celebrated a critical win during the 2020 legislative session. The Oklahoma legislature passed HB 1282 restricting youth detention for young people under the age of 15. The bill, signed by the governor in May, prohibits young people 12 years old and under from being placed in a state juvenile detention facility “unless all alternatives have been exhausted and the child is currently charged with a criminal offense that would constitute a felony if committed by an adult and it has been indicated by a risk assessment screening that the child requires detention.”   
Additionally, the law sets limits on 13- and 14-year-olds being sent to detention, allowing it only after all alternatives have been exhausted, and only if the charged offense would be considered a felony if committed by an adult, and a risk assessment has deemed the child requires detention.  
Notably, the bill passed both houses of the Oklahoma state legislature with unanimous consent. 
“We were proud to support this legislation at the State Capitol with our lawmakers and we were especially pleased with the overwhelming support and recognition for the need for this change in the law,” said Joe Dorman, CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.  

I am encouraged that it passed with unanimous consent. We had strong bill authors in Representative Mark Lawson and Senator Dave Rader who have well-deserved reputations for being advocates for children,” said Rachel Canuso Holt, Interim Executive Director of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs. “I am encouraged that a brief summary of the bill ‘limiting the use of secure detention for children 14 years and younger’ was sufficient for the Oklahoma legislators to unanimously support. This is positive news for youth justice reform in Oklahoma. In recent years, Oklahoma has passed legislation to stop detention for status offenders, adopted a juvenile competency law and extended the jurisdiction for youthful offenders to 19 years old.” 

As Oklahoma children face trauma at the highest rate in the nation, OICA and the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs hope that reducing youth detention will help reduce the high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) scores of children in the state, which is an indicator of future well-being and lifelong opportunity for youth.  

Looking to next year’s legislative session, OICA’s policy priorities include working for better conditions and ensuring federal laws are followed in county jails for youth accused of offenses, along with working to improve counseling for children rather than school suspension as a form of punishment. 

To learn more about Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, visit them online and follow them on Facebook and Twitter 

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