A Historical Perspective
In the early days of Oklahoma County, county business was transacted in a building located at Robinson and California Streets. That building is no longer in existence.
On November 4, 1904 Oklahoma County started construction of the first courthouse when the Grand Lodge of AF & AM (Ancient Free and Accepted Masons) laid the cornerstone of the building. It continued as the seat of government until 1937 when County Government was moved to the courthouse located at Park Avenue between Hudson and Harvey Streets.
That structure was born during the depression and has been described as one of the greatest bargains ever conceived. The Federal Government, through the Public Works Administration, contributed $550,000; and a bond issue was approved in an amount of $550,000. The old site and building were sold for $327,997, which provided sufficient funds to liquidate all outstanding bonds and the cost of construction to be paid in 1950.
The present Court House was built to serve a county of half a million people, but the rapid growth and progress of Oklahoma County had made inadequate a building, which, when built, was thought to be sufficient for more than fifty years.
By 1960, the building had departments that were overcrowded and no space was available for new courts provided by the Legislature, and several departments were moved to rented space. In 1965 the people voted a bond issue of $6,000,000. A "new county building" was completed. A six-story office building without the ornate architecture, the wide corridors and large lobbies of the 1937 structure was erected. This new building was linked to the existing courthouse by crosswalks at the third, fourth and fifth floors levels. This bond also included funds for expansion and modernization of jail facilities in the Courthouse and conversion of the rest of the building to courtrooms and related facilities. In 1967 construction was completed at 320 Robert S. Kerr Avenue. In late August 1982 the Juvenile Bureau moved to the sixth floor of the Oklahoma County office Building. On October 1, 1986 the Juvenile Bureau moved to the Oklahoma County Juvenile Center at 5905 N. Classen Court, Oklahoma City.
Justice William A. Berry started the Oklahoma County Juvenile Detention Home movement in June 1953. Justice Berry was then the County Juvenile Judge. For several years, there was an interest in developing a detention facility to serve Oklahoma County. One of the first groups to advocate construction of a detention home was the Juvenile Council of Oklahoma City. Other interested groups were county officials, United Church Women, PTA groups, and professional groups of social workers, psychologists, and members of the bar and medical professions. This interest and support brought about introduction of a bill in the State Legislature in 1955, which authorized Oklahoma County to vote bonds for the construction of a detention home for delinquent youth. The Board of County Commissioners in July 1956 authorized the vote on this bond issue. A substantial majority authorized the bond issue. After a series of delays around procurement of a site and other details had been worked out, construction commenced in March 1958. The first child was admitted to detention on December 20, 1958.
The Board of County Commissioners, by resolution, on the 8th day of February 1960, gave the official name of "Berry House" to the Juvenile Detention Home, in honor of Justice William A. Berry.
The original twenty-one bed facility was replaced by a 42 bed facility in September of 1986. Anadditional 38 beds, three (3) classrooms, along with staff offices, and multi-purpose room were added in 1996.
Detention Services - provides secure custody of persons under the age of eighteen (18) years charged with delinquency, pending Court disposition;transports juveniles to and from court and, when ordered by the court, transports juveniles to various residential placements.
The movement toward a unified juvenile court system in Oklahoma County occurred in 1956 with the enactment of special legislation creating the Children's Court, a county court with specialized jurisdiction. Children's Court was a composition of traditional, but limited juvenile court services, i.e., litigation and probation, that responded to the prevailing philosophy and practice of dealing with youthful offenders and neglected children within a legal arena separate and apart from the established criminal justice and welfare system. Thus, this entity was a blend of official judicial response, social and protective services with an emphasis on rehabilitation and change.
The Juvenile Bureau replaced "Children's Court" by the passage of legislation on January 13, 1969. The legislation eliminated Children's Court and enacted the necessary statutes revising the Children's Code and authorizing that Juvenile Bureaus could be created in counties exceeding 100,000 population. The result being a Juvenile Division of the District Court and the Juvenile Bureau being interfaced by the law to carry out the responsibilities of fulfilling the basic Juvenile Court role in Oklahoma County. As originally enacted in 1968 the term 'child' meant any male person under the age of sixteen (16) years and any female person under the age of eighteen (18) years. Employees of the Children's Court occupied limited space on the ground floor of the Oklahoma County Courthouse until late 1967 when space was made available on the second floor of the courthouse. A 1972 amendment defined a 'child' as any person under the age of eighteen (18) years. Nine people were employed to begin on June 1, 1972 as intake and probation officers.
The Juvenile Bureau directly facilitates the efforts of the court by providing support and follow-through services required by law. The Chief Administrative officer of the Bureau is the Director who is charged by the Judge of the Juvenile Division with the organization, development and management of the administration/ personnel, social, investigative and financial work for the Bureau and Detention Center. The Bureau is responsible for receiving, evaluating and determining appropriate action pertaining to persons under the age of eighteen (18) years found within Oklahoma County and alleged to be delinquent or in need of supervision. Additionally, the Bureau carries out orders of the Juvenile Division of the District Court and serves all process regarding Juvenile matters.
The primary Bureau services are:
Intake Services - receives all complaints regarding juveniles, determines jurisdictional questions and necessary appropriate action, in addition to the filing and preparation of juvenile charges;
Probation Services - provides probationary counseling and supervision as directed by the Juvenile Division of the District Court for juveniles adjudicated as delinquent and in need of supervision. Additionally, the Bureau operates a Volunteer Services Program and Student Intern Program for graduate and undergraduate students from four to five colleges and universities.
Working in partnership with the community, the OCJB strives to prevent and control juvenile delinquency.
The mission of the Oklahoma County Juvenile Bureau is to implement and maintain a seamless system that provides accountability and responsibility for its clients and their families while protecting the public.