GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Life looks different for kids inside the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility. Big changes have been made during COVID-19 and they are just beginning to get back to something that resembles normal.
The 12-acre facility is divided into four living units with about 75 youth and 90 staff. The living quarters resemble a dorm with 20 kids in each unit. There are individual rooms that are used for behavioral issues or medical isolation. One of the big changes is the mingling of the different units within the facility.
“The big change is we’re now more unit-based where we used to mix amongst each other a lot,” said Ken Jerin, Superintendent at Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility.
The facility says they have not had any positive cases of COVID-19.
During March everything within the facility transitioned online.
“The biggest impact is our volunteer program. We have a lot of mentors that come inside the facility that have been unable to come in,” said Jerin.
On June 18, the facility was given the approval to enter their own version of Phase 2 which will allow for visitors to come back inside the building. All visitors must wear a mask, answer a health questionnaire and get their temperature taken.
Right now, visits are only open to specific family members that are pre-approved. The visitation room normally holds about 30 people, according to Jerin, with new restrictions in place there are only around 10 people in the room at one time.
In the last five days there have been more than 20 visits.
“We’re hoping within a few weeks we’ll get as many youths as possible to visit with their immediate family,” said Jerin.
It’s not only parental visits that were impacted by COVID-19 closures, teachers that would come into the facility to teach in-person classes transitioned to online classes, mentorships and religious services all transitioned to virtual events as well.
“School has been pretty limited and staff interactions with youth and staff are pretty limited,” said Jerin.
One of the only in-person meetings that continued were treatment groups, held by facility staff.
“We just started doing religious services in-person about two weeks ago,” said Jerin, “prior to that we were allowing Zoom and Skype meetings with those volunteers for religious services and for individual mentoring.”
Right now, there are discussions about what’s next for school inside the facility.
“We’re still working with the school district and hopefully in July we’ll start up with in-person classes from our teachers,” said Jerin.
The Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility has a contract with Three Rivers School District.