April 9, 2013
Western Youth Institution
5l55 Western Avenue
Morganton, NC 28655
This letter is in response to the current budget proposal to close Western Youth Institution (WYI). The education staff at WYI would like to share with you some of the specific areas in which we serve juvenile offenders and the success that we have had recently as well as in the past.
Although the education staff here is small in comparison to most public school staffs, we are uniquely and highly educated. For this reason, we are keenly aware of the needs of juvenile offenders and work daily to prepare them to re-enter society. We conduct programs such as "Get a Job Day" in which we invite the Employment Security Commission to help us host a number of sessions on how to interview for a job, apply for a job, and how to construct resumes. Also, we conduct a "Real World" simulation twice a year that helps introduce inmates to the reality of living within a budget. In this simulation, they are instructed on how to write checks, balance a checking account, acquire housing and utilities, and purchase necessities such as clothing, food, car, insurance (car and health) and child care services on a pre-assigned monthly budget. Most importantly, we work to assist our students in getting an education. WYI produces more GEDs than any other prison in the state. Statistics are in favor of the young men who receive an education while incarcerated to avoid recidivism. In addition, our facility offers a number of college classes in conjunction with Western Piedmont Community College and North Carolina University system. Recently, we received a "Pathways" grant to help fund inmate education beyond the GED.
In addition, at this facility we offer a number of additional programs to help inmates re-enter society prepared to return to school or enter the work force. There are drug rehabilitation programs, vocational rehabilitation programs, Focus on Freedom, vocational classes in carpentry, horticulture and plumbing and other programs that specifically address the individual needs of this youth population. On many occasions, inmates who have been released will call our facility to speak to educators and let them know they have enrolled in college classes or have a job. In fact, we sometimes read of their success in local papers or receive invitations to their high school graduations.
On the same note, the education department also assists with assessments of students educational needs. Currently, we serve students classified as behaviorally and emotionally disabled, other health impaired, hearing impaired, traumatic brain injured (TBI), and specific learning disabled (SLD) as well as intellectually disabled. This is the only facility with a skilled professional to assist in assessing TBI. In addition, our educational staff provides assistance with students as they complete college applications, FAFSA forms and Pell Grants prior to release.
We are requesting that you reconsider the closure of this facility based on several reasons. First of all, youth felons will not continue to receive the same level of services if they are "farmed out" to adult facilities where there are less people aware of their needs and less people skilled to assist them. Secondly, the impact it will have on the employees and their families will be devastating. It will affect the local economy as well as surrounding counties. Most importantly, it will affect the financial well-being of young families with children and those of us who do not have enough years for retirement. In this economical state of affairs, the mere suggestion of closing this facility is poorly timed. We request that you remove the closing of WYI from your list of possibilities to add more money to the budget. The educational staff as well as administrators at WYI will be willing to discuss future programs that will further insure that youth offenders leave our facility prepared to enter society and contribute as productive citizens of North Carolina.
If you have any questions, feel free to visit, call, or tour our facility at any time.
Western Youth Educational Staff
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