State legislators helped the Oregon Youth Authority cut the ribbon for six new living units at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn on Sept. 12. The event was the culmination of years of work at OYA to design and create environments that support positive youth development.
About 175 people — including seven legislators, multiple judges and district attorneys, volunteers, OYA staff, and others involved in the juvenile justice field — celebrated the new units and toured several refurbished areas on campus. At each area, OYA staff and youth proudly shared their work in providing or participating in programs that help youth on the path to rehabilitation.
The main portion of the event highlighted MacLaren’s six new Courtyard units, which opened in August and September and each house 16 youth. The units were funded during the 2015 legislative session as part of OYA’s 10-Year Strategic Plan for Facilities.
“As a legislator, I always look for places where we can do right by the taxpayer, do right by Oregonians, and use the best practices in the arena that we’re working in,” said Rep. Jennifer Williamson, Oregon House Majority Leader, who helped cut the ribbon. “There’s no better agency who’s done that work than OYA. I’m really proud of the work that they’ve done.”
The Courtyard units embody OYA’s move toward positive youth development with features such as higher ratios of staff to youth, more connections to nature with large windows and enclosed patios, and individual sleeping rooms that give youth quiet spaces to calm down when needed. Research in juvenile brain development shows that positive physical environments better support rehabilitation, and therapeutic approaches are more effective at reducing youth reoffending than punitive ones.
Other MacLaren spaces highlighted at the open house were:
- Medical and Dental Clinic: OYA refurbished the clinic to create a more welcoming, healing space that mimics a doctor’s office in the community.
- Intake Center: With the Sept. 1 closure of Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility in Salem, male intake for OYA moved to MacLaren. The new intake center provides a more private, secure, separate area for youth to first meet staff and go through their initial screenings.
- Timberline Treatment Mall: OYA renovated a previously empty building at MacLaren to create a second treatment mall that will host educational, vocational, treatment, and other programming for youth.
- Plaza Fitness Center: Rod Martin, OYA’s statewide recreation coordinator, and his
team transformed MacLaren’s old auditorium into a full-service, community-style gym. In addition to providing a place for youth to stay fit, the center also offers learning opportunities and work experience for youth participating in a personal trainer certification program.