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Home > State > Executive > Oregon Youth Authority > Agency History

Oregon Youth Authority: Agency History

A building in downtown Salem houses the leased central offices of the Oregon Youth Authority. (Oregon State Archives Photo)

A building in downtown Salem houses the leased central offices of the Oregon Youth Authority. (Oregon State Archives Photo)

OYA home

 

Written 1997

 

Introduction
The passage of Senate Bill 1 in 1995 brought sweeping changes to Oregon's juvenile justice system. This legislation established the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA). It implemented Ballot Measure 11 which requires fixed sentences for youth and adults committing violent crimes. It prescribed a tiered system of sanctions for juvenile offenders.

Senate Bill 1 was the culmination of the work of the Governor's Task Force on Juvenile Crime which was appointed in 1993 by then Governor Barbara Roberts and chaired by Attorney General Ted Kulongoski. The focus of the Task Force was to expand the capacity of Oregon's juvenile institutions to meet growing needs and to assure that juvenile offenders are held accountable throughout the juvenile justice system.

 

The Task Force decided that it was essential to separate state-level juvenile corrections from the child welfare system and, therefore, the OYA was created July 1, 1995 as an independent department, separate from the former Children's Services Division.

 

History
Society of the late 1800's felt that youth were delinquent because of poor home surrounding and temptations. In response, the 1889 Legislative Assembly appropriated $30,000 and the Reform School was established to give these youth a structured living environment. Commitments to the State Reform School quickly overwhelmed its design capacity, however, and on October 1, 1892 the Board of Trustees announced that no more boys would be received until additional accommodations could be secured by provision of the Legislative Assembly.

 

The Legislative Assembly of 1893 made appropriations sufficient for the institution to carry on its intended work. By 1897, the institution had grown to over 600 acres of farm, orchard, vineyard and garden, and made significant progress in its change to an industrial school. In 1911, the Oregon Reform School was renamed the Oregon State Training School. Scandal plagued the school over the next decade, and a special commission found that wards of the state were neglected. A series of recommendations were made to improve conditions at the training school, and ongoing investigations paved the way for the school to be moved from Salem to Woodburn in the 1920's.

 

Delinquent boys were not society's only concern. In 1913, the Oregon Legislative Assembly appropriated $25,000 to purchase land and erect a building for Oregon's first state correctional facility for girls. The State Industrial School for Girls opened on July 17 in the old Polytechnic School building on the grounds of the School for the Deaf, awaiting its new building scheduled for completion in 1914.

 

The Oregon State Training School moved to a site near Woodburn, Oregon and began operation there on November 1, 1926. Four cottages housed 45 boys each. They were housed according to age, mental capacity, and commitment offense.

 

The 1930's brought "The Great Experiment" in which it was believed that issues over which a child had no control-their environment or heredity- were the underlying causes of juvenile delinquency. Rather than incarcerating boys for 12 to 24 months, they were paroled when school officers felt their attitude was right. Length of stay at the training school dropped to an average of 100 days, and the average daily population ran about 120 boys. Vocational experience was still the primary focus.

 

In 1951, the State Training School became the MacLaren School for Boys in honor of Reverend William MacLaren, who had worked many years with troubled youth and adults in Oregon. During the 1950's, MacLaren resembled and large working farm and ranch. The school produced most of its own food and even provided some for other institutions. House parents-husband and wife teams-worked the farm alongside youth.

 

Camp Necarney was the first juvenile correctional camp authorized by the Oregon Legislative Assembly. Established in 1951, Camp Necarney was located on the Nehalem sand spit on the northern coast of Tillamook County. It was designed to house 25 older boys who worked full-time for the State Parks Department. Camp Necarney closed in 1956. Camp Tillamook was started in 1956 with the acquisition of three old barracks buildings at the Blimp Base in Tillamook, Oregon. The work/study camp was designed to serve a younger population of delinquent youth who went to school half a day and work half a day. Another work/study camp was built on State Parks land on the mid-Oregon cost near, Florence, Oregon in 1965. Camp Florence was initially used to serve academically-challenged delinquent youth.

 

With the help of some federal funding, the Portland Intensive Care Unified Rehabilitation Effort (PICTURE house) opened in Portland in 1974. The project was designed to reduce the number of training school commitments from Multnomah County. Picture House was also used as a transition resource for Portland area youth transitioning back to their community from the training schools.

 

In 1975, Senate Bill 703 decreed that status offenders could no longer be held or committed to the training schools. Commitments were limited to youth having committed felonies and misdemeanors. A class-action lawsuit was filed against MacLaren School in 1977, alleging cruelty to students, unfair disciplinary actions, no due process and citing other issues. The lawsuit was settled in 1989, following the implementation of numerous changes. The 1977 Legislative Assembly approved monies for diversion beds to keep youth out of the training schools. In 1978, thirty community beds were added transition youth back to the community.

Eastern Oregon was the site selected for Oregon's next work/study camp. Camp Hilgard opened in 1979 near LaGrande, Oregon in Union County. Like Camp Florence, it offered a half-time work/half-time school program. Corvallis House work/study camp opened in 1980 on the site of a former Oregon State University fraternity house. The twenty-five bed facility emphasized and "outward Bound' wilderness program for youth with substance abuse issues.

 

During the 1980's, offense-specific treatment models for sex offenders, drug/alcohol abusers,, and violent offenders were developed. Programs to serve minority youth were also introduced into the array of close custody treatment services.

 

In 1985, the Legislative Assembly put a "cap" on the number of youth who could be committed to close custody, reducing that population from 728 to 513 over the next two years. Savings were investing in contracts with county juvenile departments to serve youth in the community.

 

In 1986, the Assessment and Observation Center (AOC) was opened at the Multnomah county Juvenile Detention Hall as an intake enter for Metro-area youth. By 1988, gangs had emerged as a major problem, especially in the Portland metropolitan area. The Legislative Assembly authorized $2.5 million to address the problem.

 

The voter initiative Measure 5 budget cuts forced the closure of PICTURE house in 1991. AOC was moved to MacLaren as a centralized Juvenile Corrections Assessment Center to screen all youth for diversion or the most appropriate close custody program. State budget cuts also resulted in the loss of the State Parks contracts at both Corvallis House and Camp Tillamook.

 

In building the 1993-95 budget, juvenile correction programs were separated from child welfare programs within the Children's Services Division of the Department of Human Resources. Forty-one staff having primary responsibility of delinquent-youth cases were transferred to the Office of Juvenile Corrections. In order to maximize federal funding for learning disabled youth in secure custody setting, all educational programs and MacLaren and Hillcrest training schools and the work/study camps were transferred to the Oregon Department of Education. House Bill 2630 of 1993 expanded the cap on the training school population to allow for increase or decrease according to the under 18-year-old population in Oregon.

 

Governor Barbara Roberts appointed a Task Force on Juvenile Crime in 1993. Chaired by Attorney General Ted Kulongoski, the focus of the Task Force was to expand the capacity of Oregon's juvenile institutions to meet growing needs and to assure youth offenders are held accountable throughout the juvenile justice system. Their report and recommendations were published in 1994.

 

In 1995, a bill was introduced in the Oregon Senate to establish an independent department, the Oregon Youth Authority, to administer youth correctional facilities and programs within a multi-tiered system of sanctions, and to provide leadership in a coordinated statewide juvenile justice system.

 

Senate Bill 1 was signed into law on June 30. 1995. The Oregon Youth Authority became a division of the Oregon Department of Human Resources on July 1, 1995. On January 1, 1996 the Oregon Youth Authority became an independent department of the State of Oregon.

 

Current Institutions
The MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn includes nineteen secure living units, a school operated by the Oregon Department of Education, vocational training buildings, and a farm. The all-male MacLaren campus encompasses 270 acres and has a current capacity of 460 youth. Intensive treatment programs at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility are provided in specialty living units.

 

The Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility in Salem houses both male and female youth offenders in its ten secure living units, a school and a vocational training facility. The Hillcrest campus covers approximately 30 acres and has a current capacity of 260 youth, including Oregon's youngest offenders. Youth with similar treatment needs are generally placed in living units which specialize in that treatment area. Hillcrest units provide intensive substance abuse treatment, violent offender treatment, and sex offender behavioral modification treatment.

 

Corvallis House was opened as a transition facility for male youth offenders in 1980. Like all OYA work/study camps, Corvallis House serves as a minimum security program for youth transitioning from an OYA youth correctional facility to their home communities. The length of stay varies, with commitment offenses and continued progress in treatment dictating an individual youth's program. The treatment focus of Corvallis House is substance abuse recovery. Other major components include wilderness challenge, based upon the Outward Bound model academic schooling; restitution; and community service work. A select group of youth participate in full-time local work experience or attend the local community college. All facets of the Corvallis House program are designed toward the prevention of behavior that might cause youth to re-offend and the building of skills to enable youth to reenter their communities positively and successfully.

 

Constructed in 1956, Camp Tillamook is a minimum-security facility designed to assist male adolescent sex offenders transition from OYA youth correction institutions to their communities. Youth offenders placed Tillamook can expect to spend three to six months in transition.

 

Opened in March, 1997, the Tillamook Youth Accountability Camp is a medium-security facility designed to house 50 non-violent youth offender males in a highly structured four-month program. The program consists of a due-process system of discipline, a strict daily regimen of physical training and military drill, educational programming commensurate with youth offenders' needs, substance abuse treatment and education, life-skills training, decision-making skills training, and job readiness and job-seeking skills training.

 

Located at the base of the Blue Mountain Grande Ronde River, Camp Hilgard is a 25-bed minimum security work/study camp for male youth offenders transitioning from an OYA youth correctional facility to their communities. Camp Hilgard generally serves youth from Central and Eastern Oregon, but occasionally serves youth from communities west of the Cascades.

 

Camp Florence is a 25-bed minimum security youth work/study and transition program located in the ocean side town of Florence in Lane County. The program at Camp Florence offers male youth offenders the opportunity to gain several meaningful skills and competencies that will assist them in reintegration into their respective communities.

 

Bibliography
Dictionary of Oregon History. Howard McKinley Corning, editor. Portland: Binfords and Mort, Publishers, 1956.

History of State Administrative Agencies in Oregon: 1843-1937. Oregon State

Oregon Blue Book. Secretary of State. 1911-1997.

Oregon Revised Statutes. 1997.

Oregon Youth Authority 1995-1997 biennial report, 1997.

 

Selected Chronology
1889 Legislative Assembly appropriates $30,000 for Reform School

 

1891 Oregon State Reform School opens in Salem

 

1897 the institution grows to over 600 acres and is change to an industrial school

 

1911 Oregon Reform School renamed the Oregon State Training School

 

1913 $25,000 appropriated for first state correctional facility for girls. The State Industrial School for Girls opened on July 17 in the old Polytechnic School building on the grounds of the School for the Deaf

 

1914 new building State Industrial School for Girls

 

1926 Oregon State Training School moved to a site near Woodburn, Oregon

 

1951 the State Training School became the MacLaren School for Boys in honor of Reverend William MacLaren

 

1951 Camp Necarney, first work/study camp opens on the Nehalem sand spit on the northern coast of Tillamook County

 

1956 Camp Necarney closed

 

1956 Camp Tillamook open

 

1965 Camp Florence opens

 

1973 MacLaren School a co-ed campus

 

1974 PICTURE house opens in Portland

 

1975 MacLaren School a no longer a co-ed campus

 

1975 Senate Bill 703 decrees that status offenders could no longer be held or committed to the training schools. Commitments limited to youth having committed felonies and misdemeanors

 

1977 A class-action lawsuit filed against MacLaren School

 

1977 Legislative Assembly approved monies for diversion beds to keep youth out of the training schools

 

1978 thirty community beds were added transition youth back to the community

 

1979 Camp Hilgard opened in near LaGrande, Oregon

 

1980 Corvallis House opens

 

1985 "cap" put on the number of youth who can be committed to close custody

 

1989 class-action lawsuit settled

 

1991 Measure 5 budget cuts forces the closure of PICTURE House

 

1992 juvenile correction programs were separated from child welfare programs within the Children's Services Division all educational programs and MacLaren and Hillcrest training schools and the work/study camps were transferred to the Oregon Department of Education

 

1993 House Bill 2630 expands the cap on the training school population to allow for increase or decrease according to the under 18-year-old population in Oregon. Governor Barbara Roberts appoints a Task Force on Juvenile Crime

 

1994 Task Force on Juvenile Crime report and recommendations published

 

1995 bill introduced in the Oregon Senate to establish an independent department, the Oregon Youth Authority

 

1996 Oregon Youth Authority became an independent department