There is a classroom attached to each of the pods, where a teacher comes in five days a week. The inmates are required by law to attend 240 days of instruction, as opposed to the mandatory 180 days in public school. The director tells me that, often, the long-term inmates finish high school ahead of time because they have nothing else to do. I don’t know how true this is. I’ve seen The Wire season 4. I know that if kids don’t want to do school work, they wont. Wait, I forgot to ask if Presbo works there teaching probability through playin’ dice.
The director tells me that, through grants, they had an Artist-in-Residence for two years who worked with the kids to paint five murals now displayed in the courthouse and the detention center. We walk by the murals and the cynical side of Amanda wonders if the kids just watched while the artist painted. The paintings are that good. The director says that another grant allowed them to turn one of the pods into a library. The library has a decent selection of non-violent, non-sexual, non-problematic-parent stories donated by the Multnomah County Public Library. Because this was previously a pod, there are cells. The cells were turned into dioramas of popular fiction. When you look into the windows, you see dioramas of books such as Where the Wild Things Are, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Moby Dick. This is pretty cool… if you’ve read the books.
Overall, the Juvenile Detention Center seemed like a pretty cushy place to spend a sentence especially compared to the lives some of these kids had before being sentenced. With a menu service, a library, and an art program, it seems it that would be hard to go back to a world of stealing to survive. I’ll end with this final observation. When walking by occupied pods, I noticed that the inmates were not foaming at the mouth, tattooing each other with Walkman motors, or turning toothbrushes into shivs. Rather, they were doing math homework, coloring a family crest art assignment, or returning from a basketball game in the gym. Ultimately – although the inmates would vehemently deny it – they looked happy.