MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility

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MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility
MacLaren admin building.jpg
Admin building
Location 2630 North Pacific Highway
Woodburn, Oregon 97071
Status Operational
Managed by Oregon Youth Authority
Director Fariborz Pakseresht Superintendent Dan Berger

MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility is Oregon’s largest youth correctional facility and is located on 80 acres in Woodburn, Oregon. MacLaren is one of 10 close-custody facilities operated around the state by the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA). Youth correctional facilities provide the highest level of security and structure within the OYA close-custody system. Youth live in group settings and many of their daily activities are conducted within living units (known at MacLaren as cottages). A range of nationally recognized reformation, treatment and education services are provided to youth by OYA staff, teachers and contracted providers.

Education services at MacLaren are offered at William P. Lord High School, a fully accredited high school operated by the Willamette Education Service District (WESD).

OYA is led by Fariborz Pakseresht. MacLaren’s superintendent is Dan Berger.


The facility now known as MacLaren originated as the Oregon Reform School in Salem in 1891. By 1897, the institution had grown to over 600 acres and made significant progress in its change to an industrial school. An early model of self-sufficiency, the facility resembled a full working farm with orchard, vineyard and garden, and a shoe and harness shop, among other services.[1]

In 1911, the Oregon Reform School was renamed the Oregon State Training School. Oregon Governor Oswald West recommended the closure of the Oregon State Training School in his 1913 biennial address. He proposed the establishment of a new reformatory in Union, Oregon and claimed the present "institution is being used as a dumping ground for boys who should be living in better homes." This serves as early testament to Oregon’s commitment to youth reformation with community-based programs, recognizing that juveniles need the support of their families and placement in the community to become productive members of society.[2][3]

In 1926, the Oregon State Training School was relocated from Salem to Woodburn. Its four cottages housed 45 boys each, who were assigned based on age, mental capacity and the offense for which they were committed.

Continuing the foundation of self-sufficiency and community giving, the school in the 1950s resembled a large working farm and ranch by producing most of its own food and even providing some for other institutions. House parents — husband and wife teams — worked the farm alongside youth.

In 1951, the Oregon State Training School was renamed MacLaren School for Boys in honor of the Rev. William MacLaren, noted for his work with troubled youth in Oregon.

The school was renamed MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility after OYA was created in 1995 in response to recommendations made by a gubernatorial task force. On January 1, 1996 the Oregon Youth Authority became an independent state agency.

The full history of OYA is detailed in the webpage.

Youth caring for animals[edit]

Project POOCH is a rehabilitation program at MacLaren that pairs youth with rescued dogs. The youth train and socialize the dogs, representing growth and understanding for both sensitive populations. In the 1990s, Dr. Sandra

Youth at MacLaren socialize rescue dogs for Project POOCH

Merriam-Aduini found that the program supported “respect for authority, social interaction and leadership" as well as "growth in areas of honesty, empathy, nurturing, social growth, understanding, confidence level and pride of accomplishment.”[4]

MacLaren also supports the non-profit group Fences For Fido. Youth at MacLaren – with instruction provided by WESD – build fences and doghouses for distribution by FFF to local owners whose dogs are tethered in yards, allowing them to live unchained. In April 2015, Fences For Fido formally recognized MacLaren’s contributions to the group’s mission, bestowing the facility with “Chopper’s Heroes of the Year Award,” the non-profit’s most prestigious honor.[5]

Hope Partnership and “New Start Station” treatment mall[edit]

Janus Youth Programs' Hope Partnership supports MacLaren’s and OYA’s vision that youth who leave OYA go on to lead productive, crime-free lives. Hope Partnership works with individuals and community organizations to lead workshops and provide services that engage youth with community members through special workshops, groups and classes. Skills learned include leadership, Toastmasters, Restorative Justice and nonviolent communication as well as the arts, music, and life Skills and transition groups.

All events are facilitated by volunteers and encourage Positive Human Development[6] by providing normalized experiences and a sense of community to prepare youth for a successful transition to independent living. The wide variety of activities offered to youth ranges from book clubs and skateboarding clinics to breakdancing.

The concept of a treatment mall “has been shown to be an effective treatment approach for patients with mental illness in inpatient psychiatric settings.”[7] OYA and MacLaren staff recognized the need for such an approach and subsequently renovated an out-of-use cottage on the MacLaren campus in 2014 as a treatment mall. The youth named it “New Start Station.” It offers rehabilitative skill building activities, which directly relate to transition skills, interpersonal development through peer-based social activities, community involvement and treatment specific areas.

Vocational programs[edit]

Similar to all of OYA’s 10 facilities, MacLaren encourages youth to learn skills by taking college level courses, following a vocational path, performing services for the community, making household products and by working in its lattice factory. Prior to working in MacLaren’s lattice factory, youth must have a high school diploma, have proven successful in another MacLaren work program, and have completed required treatment programs.

As youth become certified in vocational programs including welding, fabrication, metal and wood projects, sandblasting and laser-etching, and Computer Aided Design (CAD), making products represents an opportunity for youth to understand business, develop work ethics, and build self-esteem and pride. The youth’s portion of the revenue generated for product sales is used for restitution, child support, or set aside for trust money when released from the facility.

Greenhouse at MacLaren YCF

In 2014, staff and youth comprehensively renovated the 11,000 square-foot Moody Building at MacLaren to expand access and options for vocational learning, especially welding and woodworking. "We used this as an opportunity for education throughout the entire process," said Michael Conn, principal at Lord High School … "Everything from tearing down, cleaning to rebuilding."[8]

Youth also may earn Master Gardener certification at MacLaren, and they currently cultivate almost 3,000 poundsof fresh produce per year, equalling approximately $8,000 worth of produce. Participants in the gardening program are seeking grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund further growth and have designed several plans for a new location, including a pole building to replace older sheds.[9]

Support for LGBTQ youth[edit]

MacLaren was the first juvenile justice facility in the nation to offer a formal support group for youth who identify as LGBTQ. The group, known as Two Spirits, “helps youth have a safe space to learn more about themselves.” In October 2014, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane spoke at an LGBTQ celebration at MacLaren.[10]

MacLaren’s future[edit]

MacLaren figures prominently in OYA’s 10-Year Strategic Plan for Facilities. The plan was developed in response to a 2013 legislative budget note directing OYA to develop a facilities plan that evaluates facilities in terms of capacity, operating and maintenance costs, and deferred maintenance needs; recommends facility disposition and future use of the agency’s physical plant resources; and creates a timeline for implementation.

According to the 10-Year Plan, MacLaren’s renovated campus would provide:[11]

  • Adequate space for group and individual treatment sessions;
  • A larger number of private rooms and fewer dormitory settings to give youth needed privacy and places where they can go to regain emotional control;
  • Improved and expanded vocational education opportunities;
  • Higher ceilings, more natural light and refurbished living areas;
  • Improved recreation space to promote physical and emotional well-being.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°09′16″N 122°49′43″W / 45.154564°N 122.828597°W / 45.154564; -122.828597