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January 23, 2014

Incarcerated juveniles given a little freedom

New unit benefits

LOGANSPORT — A new unit at the Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility is taking an alternative approach to traditional correctional facility methods — and, administrators say, providing a more positive environment.

The Youth Transition Reentry Independent Living (YTRI) Unit is less structured, allowing students to take responsibility for basic operations while offering additional freedom and privileges.

The YTRI housing unit, which is set up like a college dormitory, can house up to 18 people. There are currently nine people in the unit, but the number changes often with people moving in and out, according to Mark Harmon, public information officer at the Logansport Correctional Juvenile Facility.

Harmon, who has worked in juvenile corrections for 21 years, said he has already seen an improvement since the unit started in October.

“It’s nice to see a program display such positive results,” Harmon said. “You can see growth here. They are actually demonstrating that they are learning and it’s encouraging.”

Students in the unit take responsibility for wake-up times by using alarm clocks and participate in orienting new students. Eventually, YTRI Unit students will be involved with new employee orientation to help staff become familiar with student views.

Students must be chosen to participate. They can become a resident by filling out an application, getting three staff recommendations, meeting specific behavioral and performance expectations and eventually facing an interview panel of staff for consideration.

The unit was created out of existing space known formerly as an isolation/segregation unit. The implementation of the unit came from a national push to reduce time spent in isolation.

The experience has proven to be a positive motivation to students involved.

Students within the unit said they enjoyed the ability to talk, less structure, better communication and more responsibility.

Dylan and Nathan are roommates within the YTRI Unit. Within their room is a space for personal items, an alarm clock and a journal to leave some notes of advice for the next people who will enter the room.

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