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Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility

Pete Springer/OPB

A day in the life of 20 year-old Jacob, and some of his friends, looks like this:

  • 6:30 a.m. Wake-up, eat breakfast
  • 8:00 a.m  Attend school or do work
  • 2:00 p.m. School day ends, go to treatment group or study
  • 5:00 p.m. Eat dinner
  • 5:45 p.m. Enjoy recreational activities like football, soccer, or (in the summer) swimming
  • 9:45 p.m. Lights out

Seems like a pretty usual day, but Jacob is not really a usual kid. When he was 15 he got in a drunk driving accident, in which his girlfriend and his best friend were killed. Now he’s one of about 25 youth living in a dorm at Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility. He, and all of his dorm mates, are serving mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes such as murder, rape, arson, robbery, and gang activity.

During this show we go behind the gates of Hillcrest.

There are about 150 inmates at Hillcrest — all of whom are male and between the ages of 12 and 25, and all of whom committed their crimes before age 18. About half of the boys at Hillcrest transition to other Oregon Youth Authority facilities around the state, but the guys in Jacob’s unit are there for the long-term, usually more than five years.

During their time at Hillcrest, youth are required to enroll in classroom or vocational programs. Once they graduate from high school some can go on to college courses. One such course is called Inside-Out. You may have heard about this from a program we did late last year. (Or you may have read this recent editorial in The Oregonian.) College students from Oregon State University spend one night a week, for about three months, studying with students at Hillcrest.

What role do you think programs like this have in rehabilitating young offenders? How much should the state invest in educating youth in prison? What else could be offered to best prepare them for life on the outside?

Update 6/8/12: After the show we kept the recorders rolling and chatted with Inside-Out student Sarah Ferrer about the editorial she wrote for The Oregonian. You can listen to that short post-show conversation here:

And one more post-show bonus track: Kevin, one of the OSU students, answers the question of whether or not he could imagine being friends with the youth offenders after the class is over. And youth offenders expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about a new program to fix up bicycles for low-income families.

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