State Senator Sean Burrage and State Representative Ben Sherrer vow to fight a decision by the Office of Juvenile Affairs to terminate its contract with the Thunderbird Regimented Training Program Bravo Company in Pryor. The two lawmakers agreed the decision is a devastating blow to at-risk boys all over Oklahoma who come to the program seeking a second chance at turning their lives around.
“We know that across the board budget cuts are forcing all state agencies to tighten their belts and make tough decisions,” Burrage, (D-Claremore) said. “The program at Thunderbird has successfully turned troubled teenage boys into productive hard-working tax-paying citizens and for OJA to turn their backs on this program is wrong.”
Burrage said the decision to end the program, known as “Bravo Company” which is targeted to adjudicated boys age 13-18 will end up costing Oklahoma taxpayers more in the long run.
“These kids come to Thunderbird troubled and looking for hope to reverse the consequences of past behavior,” he said. “If they no longer have Thunderbird as their last resort, many of the boys who would have come here will end up in our prison system, costing Oklahoma taxpayers millions of dollars in years to come.”
“OJA has made a horrible decision to terminate its contract with Thunderbird and if this decision isn’t reversed we will all pay in the long run,” Sherrer (D-Choteau) said. “I am committed, as I know Senator Burrage is as well, to do whatever we can to try to work with OJA to reevaluate the situation in hopes of saving the program.”
Burrage and Sherrer said the Bravo Company program at Thunderbird has a huge success rate with recidivism among participants as low as ten percent.
“Cuts like these are penny wise and pound foolish, because this program keeps people out of prison. Period. ” Burrage said. “In the end, we are risking overcrowding Oklahoma’s already strained correction system to save a little bit of money now on the backs of Oklahoma’s most troubled youth population. OJA needs to reverse this decision and find other ways to trim their budget during this trying time.”