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History of Juvenile Justice in Oregon
Introduction

The modern era of juvenile justice in Oregon began in 1995 with the passage of Senate Bill 1. This legislation:

  • Implemented Ballot Measure 11, which requires fixed sentences for youth and adults committing violent crimes;
  • Prescribed a tiered system of sanctions for juvenile offenders; and
  • Established the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA).

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 then 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 ensure that juvenile offenders were appropriately held accountable throughout the juvenile justice system.
 
Prior to 1995, OYA had been part of the state’s child welfare system. The Task Force decided it was essential to create a separate state-level juvenile corrections agency separate from both the child welfare system and the adult corrections system. The Oregon Legislative Assembly agreed, and OYA was created July 1, 1995, as an independent state agency. 

 
History
The history of juvenile justice in Oregon long predates the creation of OYA, and actually begins in the late 1800s.

Society in that era believed youth were delinquent because of poor home surroundings and temptations. In response, the 1889 Oregon Legislative Assembly appropriated $30,000 to establish the State Reform School in Salem to give these youth a structured living environment. Commitments to the State Reform School quickly overwhelmed its design capacity, 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 Legislature.

The 1893 Legislature made appropriations sufficient for the institution to carry on its intended work. By 1897, the institution had grown to more than 600 acres of farm, orchard, vineyard, and garden, and made significant progress in changing 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 1920s.
 
Delinquent boys were not society’s only concern. In 1913, the Legislature 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 July 17, 1913, in the old Polytechnic School building on the grounds of the School for the Deaf, while awaiting its new building scheduled for completion in 1914.
 
The Oregon State Training School moved from Salem to a site near Woodburn, and began operation there November 1, 1926. Four cottages housed 45 boys each. Boys were housed according to age, mental capacity, and commitment offense.
 
The 1930s 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, boys 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 1950s, MacLaren resembled a 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.
 
The first work/study camp opened 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, replaced that same year by Camp Tillamook, which was built on land that had housed three old barracks buildings at the Blimp Base in Tillamook. The work/study camp was designed to serve a younger population of delinquent youth who attended school half a day and worked half a day.
 
Another work/study camp was built on State Parks land on the mid-Oregon coast near Florence in 1965. Camp Florence initially was 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 also was 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 Legislature approved money for diversion beds to keep youth out of the training schools. Thirty community beds were added to help transition youth back to the community in 1978.
 
Eastern Oregon was the site selected for Oregon´s next work/study camp. Camp Hilgard opened in 1979 near LaGrande 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 25- bed facility emphasized an “Outward Bound” wilderness program for youth with substance abuse issues.
 
During the 1980s, offense-specific treatment models for sex offenders, drug/alcohol abusers, and violent offenders were developed. Programs to serve minority youth also were introduced into the array of close-custody treatment services.
 
In 1985, the Legislature 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 invested 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 center for metro-area youth. By 1988, gangs had emerged as a major problem, especially in the Portland metropolitan area, and the 1989 Legislature authorized $2.5 million to address the problem.
 
The voter initiative Measure 5 budget cuts of 1991 forced the closure of PICTURE house that same year. 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 Oregon 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 settings, 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 increases or decreases 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 ensure youth offenders were 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 within 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.  
 
Selected Chronology

1889

 

 

          The Oregon Legislature held a 39-day Legislative Session, during which lawmakers appropriated $30,000 to establish a state reform school in Salem. It was believed that temptations and poor home surroundings spawned delinquency, so the Oregon Reform School was created to give youth offenders a structured living environment. The facility quickly reached capacity.

 1892 

 

Courts began sending children under age 16 who were convicted of crimes to the state reform school instead of to prison. The Board of Trustees announced that no more boys would be received at the Oregon Reform School until the Legislature provided more accommodations.
​1893 ​The Oregon Legislature appropriated money to expand the facility. 
 1897 The Oregon Reform School had grown to more than 600 acres of farm, orchard, vineyard and garden, and began to change into an industrial school.
​1907 ​Oregon created its first juvenile court, with an emphasis on the rehabilitation of delinquent children.
 1911 Oregon Reform School renamed the Oregon State Training School
 1913 Legislators allocated $25,000 to purchase land and build the State Industrial School for Girls in Salem. Through a series of name changes it eventually became Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility.

 1926

 

The Oregon State Training School was moved from Salem to a site near Woodburn. Its four cottages housed 45 boys each, who were assigned on the basis of age, mental capacity and the offense for which they were committed.

​1930

 

 

 

​This year introduced the decade of “The Great Experiment,” based on the belief that juvenile delinquency sprang from environment and heredity, over which a child had no control. Rather than being incarcerated for 12-24 months, boys were paroled when school officers believed their attitude was appropriate. Length of stay at the Oregon State Training School dropped to an average of 100 days, with the average daily population running at approximately 120 boys. Vocational experience remained the school’s primary focus.

 1951

 

 

 

 

The Oregon Legislature established the first juvenile correctional camp. Camp Necarney was located on the Nehalem sand spit on the northern coast of Tillamook County. It was designed to house 25 older youth offenders who worked full-time for the state Parks Department. The Oregon State Training School was renamed MacLaren School for Boys in honor of the Rev. William MacLaren, who for many years worked with troubled youth and adults in Oregon. During the 1950s, MacLaren functioned as a working farm that produced most of its own food and provided some food for other state institutions. House parents worked the farm alongside the youth offenders. Eventually the facility was renamed MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility.

 1956

 

 

Camp Necarney closed and Camp Tillamook Youth Transitional Facility was opened. Camp Tillamook was located in three old barracks buildings on the blimp base at Tillamook. This work-study camp was designed to serve a younger population of youth offenders who were in school half days and worked the other half.
 1959 The modern juvenile code was enacted, creating a separate court system to deal with children under 18 years of age. Oregon ratified the Interstate Compact.
 1965 Camp Florence Youth Transitional Facility, a second work-study camp, opened. It initially served academically challenged delinquent youth, later becoming a transitional camp for youth offenders close to being released.

 1974

 

 

With the help of federal funding, the Portland Intensive Care Unified Rehabilitation Effort (known as the PICTURE House) opened in Portland. Designed to reduce the number of commitments to the training school from Multnomah County, it was used as a transition resource for Portland-area youth transitioning back to the community from the training schools.

 1975

 

The Oregon Legislature passed a law preventing status offenders from being held or committed to the state’s training schools. Commitments were limited to youth adjudicated for felonies and misdemeanors.
 1977 The Oregon Legislature appropriated funds for diversion services to keep youth out of state training schools.
1978 The Oregon Legislature established the first 30 community beds for transitioning youth back to the community.
 1979 Camp Hilgard opened near La Grande as a work-study camp offering a program of half-time study and half-time work.

1980

 

The Corvallis House opened in a historic 1913 home that had been used as an Oregon State University fraternity house. The 25-bed work-study facility emphasized an Outward Bound wilderness program for youth with substance abuse issues.

 1981

 

Offense-specific treatment models were introduced for sex offenders, abusers of alcohol and other drugs, and violent offenders. Programs to serve minority youth also were introduced.

 1985

 

The Oregon Legislature put a cap on the number of youth offenders who could be committed to close custody facilities. Savings were diverted to contracts with county juvenile departments to serve youth in the community.
 1986 The Assessment and Observation Center opened at the Multnomah County Juvenile Detention Hall as an intake center for metro-area youth.
 1988 Gangs had become a major problem, especially in the Portland area, and the Oregon Legislature authorized $2.5 million to address this emerging challenge.

 1991

 

 

Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 5, forcing closure of PICTURE House. The Assessment and Observation Center was moved to MacLaren as a centralized juvenile corrections assessment center to screen all youth for diversion to the most appropriate close custody facility. State budget cuts resulted in the loss of state parks contracts at both Corvallis House and Camp Tillamook.
 1993 Governor Barbara Roberts appointed a Task Force on Juvenile Crime chaired by Oregon Attorney General Theodore Kulongoski.
 1994 The Task Force led a statewide Juvenile Justice Summit to propose a new statewide juvenile justice system.

 1995 

As a result of the Task Force’s findings and the Summit participants’ recommendations, the Oregon Legislature removed responsibility for juvenile corrections from the Oregon Department of Human Resources.

 1996

 

 

The Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) became a separate agency. Its mission, as codified in statute, was and remains to protect the public and reduce crime by holding youth offenders accountable and offering opportunities for reformation in safe environments. Richard A. Hill was appointed the first director of the Oregon Youth Authority.

 1997

 

 

The Oregon Legislature appropriated funding to establish the Juvenile Justice Information System. OYA opened six new youth correctional facilities — Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility in Burns, North Coast Youth Correctional Facility in Warrenton, Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility in Albany, Ochoco Youth Correctional Facility in Prineville, Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility in Grants Pass, and Tillamook Youth Correctional Facility in Tillamook.
​2000 ​Karen C. Brazeau was appointed the director of the Oregon Youth Authority.
​2002 ​The Oregon Youth Authority opened RiverBend Youth Transitional Facility, which incorporated the former Camp Hilgard facility, near La Grande.
​2003 ​Budget cuts closed North Coast, Oak Creek and Ochoco youth correctional facilities.

​2004

 

​North Coast Youth Correctional Facility reopened. Ochoco Youth Correctional Facility was transferred to the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, which leased it to the Oregon Military Department. Robert Jester was appointed director of the Oregon Youth Authority.
​2008 ​Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility reopened as a facility for female youth offenders. Robert Mink was appointed Interim Director of the Oregon Youth Authority.

​2009

 

Corv​allis House was closed and construction began on a new transitional facility on the grounds of Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility in Albany. Colette S. Peters was appointed as Director of the Oregon Youth Authority.

​2010

 

​The Oregon Youth Authority opened Trask River High School, a new building serving youth offenders at the Tillamook Youth Correctional Facility and Camp Tillamook. The completed transitional facility at Oak Creek was repurposed due to budget cuts. OYA began implementing the OYA Performance Management System.
​2011 ​OYA reduced close-custody capacity from 900 to 750 as a result of budget cuts.
​2012 ​Fariborz Pakseresht was appointed as Director of the Oregon Youth Authority. OYA began implementing the Youth Reformation System.

​2014

 

​OYA formally adopted a culture of Positive Human Development for youth and staff, which is founded on the five tenets of safety and security, caring and supportive relationships, high expectations and accountability, meaningful participation, and community connection.

​2015

 

​The Oregon Legislature approved funding for the first phase of OYA’s 10-Year Strategic Plan for Facilities, to bring OYA’s close-custody facilities in alignment with best practices in juvenile justice. OYA opened the Young Women’s Transition Program facility at the Oak Creek campus.
​2016 ​OYA began construction of six new living units on the MacLaren campus designed to support the culture of Positive Human Development and improve outcomes for youth.
         
       
 
OYA Biennial Report
  • Click this link for a pdf of the printed 1995-97 report on the history of OYA (includes historical photos).