May 17, 2017

Students and justice-involved young adults engage in discussion during the 15-25 year-old unit's first campus visit to Pacific University.
The Department of Community Justice (DCJ) has teamed up with Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon for an exciting new opportunity to inspire and advocate for justice involved young adults. Individuals on supervision in DCJ’s 15-25 year-old unit gain perspective of students studying to work in the criminal justice field, while witnessing opportunities and paths to success for themselves. Students in the Criminal Justice, Law and Society program get real-world interaction with justice-involved individuals and the opportunity to discuss the system and its impact on those individuals.

Probation Parole Officer (PPO) Brie Murphy explains, “we are working on a criminal justice program with youth who have been marginalized because of trauma, mental health and equity issues. We are focusing on a collaborative effort where students and justice-involved individuals alike, can work together on a number of community projects, which we believe will help young people in the system. We are providing mental health supports, resources, and educational incentives, while also building an advocacy network for individuals regarding their sentencing.”

In February, eight young men and three PPOs joined Dr. Taryn VanderPyl’s class of 22 criminal justice undergraduate students to discuss ideas, resources available, and share positive and negative experiences with the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Specific issues the justice-involved individuals highlighted were the need for more adequate mental health supports and improvements in  trauma informed care, as well as ensuring that prevention and intervention measures were truly helpful. One individual brought up concerns about signing documents they did not fully understand.

Dr. VanderPyl has been working in Pacific University’s Criminal Justice, Law and Society program for a number of years. She seeks to raise awareness and influence positive outcomes of youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Creating positive outcomes greatly increases the chances of a youth diverting from further contact with the system, which is what the 15-25 year-old unit aims to do.

A group of young adults walk away from the camera on a sidewalk in the rain.
Justice-involved young adults in the 15-25 year-old unit with DCJ take a campus tour at Pacific University.

Chase Patterson, a Pacific University student in VanderPyl’s class, told PPO Murphy, “learning and talking to the [people] in the system was way more valuable than any training, lecture or any textbook could teach me.”

Professor VanderPyl notes that “[Pacific University and DCJ] are still in the early stages of these projects, but the main learning experience has already been significantly impactful for everyone involved,” adding, “we look forward to more scheduled visits between our groups and are excited about [making progress on] the issues we will be tackling.”

“Giving hope to young adults, and helping future justice system employees know who their population could be, as well as the experiences they have faced is just one of the many goals we have been working on through this collaboration, “ PPO Murphy emphasized.