Muskogee juvenile detention center reopening under new operator after inmate suicide investigation

Posted at 7:05 PM, Jul 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-11 05:07:36-04

MUSKOGEE -- Muskogee’s juvenile detention facility is opening back up after an inmate committed suicide earlier this year in a cell.

The county’s commissioners said the biggest change is a new operator.

Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services was selected to replace Muskogee County Council of Youth Services (MCCYS) to be the new operator.

The attorney representing the family of 16-year-old Billy Woods said a perfect storm of neglect from staff and cell conditions contributed to the teen taking his own life.

“They’ve taken an emotionally vulnerable child, they’ve put him in a cell that’s capable of committing suicide if he wants to with pretty much ease, you have a scenario where staff are being neglectful and potentially abusive and that’s kind of that worst-case scenario,” said Attorney Dan Smolen.

For half a year, the juvenile detention center built in 2015, has been empty.

Back in January, the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) suspended the license after it learned about Woods taking his own life inside a cell.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) said an investigation found four staff members in the 10 bed facility didn’t properly supervise the teenage inmates.

Muskogee County, which acts as a landlord, picked Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services as the new operator.

Commissioner Ken Doke said changes are happening.

“Anything the county and or the operator can do moving forward to make sure those types of things never happen again, you know we’re going to do that,” said Doke.

State Representative Avery Frix called for the investigation back in January.

“I’m just happy to see OJA acted so quickly, revoking the license from the current operator and the county commissioners removing the former operator here closing down the facility and then OJA calling for the investigation,”

DHS said a copy of that investigation was also sent to the district attorney to determine if any criminal charges apply.

The county said the new operator might reopen the facility by August.

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