Closing the North Coast Youth Correctional Facility is stupidAs Oregon legislators cut programs right and left in a desperate attempt to balance the budget, we must not lose sight of the collateral damage. If we have any hope of improving life in this state, we must learn from this chaotic period.

The bulk of what happens in any state capital is a product of politics, and specifically the politics of the election cycle. But the cliches and slogans of electoral politics seldom have much to do with the real needs of the state.

Nowhere is this more evident that the bumpy ride of two state programs that shape our young people: the schools and corrections.

The closure of Oregon Youth Authority facilities that are less than six years old is emblematic of instability that breeds confusion and ineffectiveness in the approach to criminal behavior.

The wisdom of legislation that created the Oregon Youth Authority in 1996 was Young people know they're being devalued.a recognition that if we don't deal with young criminal offenders early, swiftly and consistently, we breed professional criminals. The North Coast Youth Correctional Facility had a tangible effect on crime in Clatsop County. Juvenile crime was falling, thanks to the OYA's presence and the effectiveness of the Clatsop County Juvenile Department.

To pull the plug on the OYA is more than short-sighted. It is fatally myopic. To young offenders, the message we are sending is pretty clear: "We were kidding. Go back to your apprenticeship with crime. We'll see you at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem when you get there in your late 20s. We'll spend far more to house you there than we would if we dealt with you in your teens."

Young people catch on quickly. They know they are being devalued. Law-abiding young people who want an education have decoded that message from our legislature. "We'll trumpet the value of education in our campaigns, but when push comes to shove, we'll deliver an educational product that is less valuable than what we received at your age."

Pulling the plug on the OYA is really stupid. It sends Oregon in the wrong direction.


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