The Youth Care Center at Clatsop County’s Youngs Bay Juvenile Detention Center in Warrenton provides a 120-day program combining cognitive behavior modification, “mindfulness” and health and wellness in a holistic approach aimed at steering young offenders away from a future in the criminal justice system.
The program takes in youth between ages 15 and 19 who are on parole or probation from state or county juvenile corrections programs, and who are at risk of entering the state detention system. Seriously violent offenders, sex offenders and juveniles with mental illness are not eligible.
Mindfulness is designed to complement the cognitive restructuring treatment programs with exercises aimed at building self-awareness and self-control. Most YCC participants come to the program because they have failed other corrective programs centered exclusively on cognitive rehabilitation.
The mindfulness element, incorporated into the YCC program in 2009, centers on meditation – both in groups and individually – aimed at getting the youth to focus on the present and let go of the stresses from past mistakes or future challenges.
The concentration required to meditate can be a challenge for kids who often come to the program with attention-deficit disorder or other behavioral issues. The detention setting provides a controlled atmosphere where not only drugs and alcohol but also distractions like phones and Internet are absent. Staff members leading the meditation practice start with 10-minute sessions that are gradually expanded, and youth meditate on their own in their cells.
The self-control that the mindfulness training brings also greatly reduces behavioral issues requiring staff intervention.
Clatsop County Juvenile Department’s YCC program is believed to be the only one in the state to adopt meditation-based mindfulness practice into its detention system.
Wellness, the third element of the YCC program, teaches youth the benefits of not only kicking drugs and alcohol but also good nutrition and exercise.