Oregon Leads the Way on Youth Offender Education

Posted by Fariborz Pakseresht
November 14, 2013

The Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) has begun offering juvenile offenders free online courses that can lead to college credits. The courses, created by Education Portal, contain brief lectures from technical experts and are designed to help youths pass the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) test. CLEP credits are accepted by nearly 3,000 colleges and universities. 

Youths take these courses on computers donated by the Oregon Department of Corrections. Under the supervision of OYA staffer Gary Westoby, a group of youths known as the “OYA Geek Squad” wipes the computers’ memories and refurbishes them. The computers are self-contained and not connected to the internet, ensuring that youths can’t use them inappropriately. The refurbished computers are then assigned to OYA facilities.

Education Administrator Frank Martin has played an important role in the launch of e-learning at the OYA. Martin, a vocal advocate for educating juvenile offenders, has appeared in e-learning promotional videos and recruited Salem artist Mark Dwyer to design promotional posters. Martin’s support of educating juvenile offenders is well founded: the RAND Corporation recently released a report that showed that those who were educated or learned a trade while incarcerated are significantly less likely to commit crimes when released.

OYA Geek Squad
The "OYA Geek Squad" (left to right) OYA staffer Gary Westoby and youths Wesley, Nick, Andrew, Nathan and Dustin

Promotional Poster
Promotional poster for e-learning created by Mark Dwyer