OYA dedicates program in honor of Senator Jackie Winters

The Jackie Winters Transition Program serves youth preparing to move back to the community from close custody.

Above: Cutting the ribbon at the dedication event, from left to right: Fabian Casarez, JWTP director; Pam McClain, daughter-in-law of Jackie Winters; Brian McClain, son of Jackie Winters; Mercedez McClain, granddaughter of Jackie Winters; Bill McClain, son of Jackie Winters; and Joe O’Leary, OYA director.

About 75 Oregon Youth Authority staff and youth, elected dignitaries, and other community stakeholders gathered with the late State Sen. Jackie Winters’ family Tuesday in Albany to help dedicate the Jackie Winters Transition Program, or JWTP.

Formerly known as the Young Women’s Transition Program (YWTP), the program now named JWTP serves up to 14 youth, ages 15-24, who are preparing to move back into the community from OYA’s Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility, located next door.

OYA wanted to change the name of the program to be more inclusive and to honor Senator Winters, said Joe O’Leary, OYA’s director.

“Naming the program after Senator Winters was an obvious choice, as she was a long-time supporter of our agency’s work and an advocate for young people in the juvenile legal system,” O’Leary said.

Sen. Jackie Winters

Senator Winters, who passed away in 2019, was a dedicated and well-respected public servant at the forefront of many of Oregon’s policy conversations. She was the first African-American Republican to become an Oregon State Representative, an office she held from 1998 through 2010, when she was elected to the State Senate. In 2017, the Senate Republican Caucus elected Winters to be their leader, making her the first African-American in Oregon history to lead a caucus.

Winters was known for her dedication to bipartisanship, which was evident at Tuesday’s event, attended by multiple legislators and friends from both major parties.

“I think Jackie would want you to know that she was a woman of faith, and this particular program is about transition and therefore redemption,” State Sen. Tim Knopp said at the event. “Jackie was a fan of redemption and justice, and she spent her life working to achieve those goals.”

Winters was a strong advocate for youth impacted by the juvenile justice system, their families, and Oregon Youth Authority. She was one of OYA’s biggest advocates in the Oregon Legislature, where she supported numerous OYA initiatives and legislation to improve outcomes for youth in the system.

The transition program now named in honor of Winters has been serving youth since 2015 by helping them learn and practice independence skills, with a focus on continued treatment, ongoing social skill-building, and education and vocational needs.

“We are incredibly grateful to have her name on our transition program and to continue her legacy of improving the lives of young people and their families in Oregon,” O’Leary said.

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