Officials to stop lodging juveniles in Oregon prison

From The Oregonian, December 12, 2011

State officials this week are ending their practice of lodging juveniles in the adult prison in Wilsonville while processing them to begin serving sentences, the Partnership for Safety and Justice announced Monday.

Shannon Wight, associate director of the Portland partnership, said about 100 youth a year spent up to a week at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility after being convicted as adults. Most juveniles subsequently serve their sentences at juvenile facilities run by the Oregon Youth Authority.

Wight said the state Corrections Department and OYA agreed to change their practices after the partnership questioned them.

The juveniles were held in segregation cells for up to 23 hours a day while at Coffee Creek, Wight said. They mixed with adult prisoners at times, such as meals, Wight said.

“Housing youth for any period of time in adult prisons and jails can be detrimental to their physical or mental health,” said Wight.

All incoming state prisoners are processed at the Wilsonville prison before assignment elsewhere. This has included 16- and 17-year-olds convicted as adults of Measure 11 crimes.

OYA officials said those youth now will be processed at Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility in Salem or Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility in Albany. Agency officials said the change also will put juveniles into treatment programs quicker.

The partnership won legislation in the 2011 session to encourage local authorities to lodge youth in juvenile facilities instead of adult jails while they were awaiting trial. The law didn’t require the change and “there are still some counties that keep youth who haven’t been convicted of anything in adult jails.”