BURNS - A drive to prevent the closure of Oregon Youth Authority correctional facilities in Burns, Prineville and other locations, failed this month.

Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, reported Feb. 10 that Gov. Ted Kulongoski backed the decision by OYA director Karen Brazeau to close the Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility in Burns, as well as similar facilities in Prineville, Albany and Warrenton. The closures were prompted by the state's budget crisis.

The OYA oversees youth offenders who have been tried in juvenile court and found guilty of criminal charges.

At Ferrioli's request, Senate President Peter Courtney had convened a meeting to discuss strategies for preventing the closure of the OYA facilities.

However, in an interview last week, Ferrioli said the Legislature would need to find $4 million just to keep the four facilities operating for the balance of this biennium, and $30 million to keep them operational for 2003-2005. Barring a legislative rescue, the money is not there to retain these correctional facilities, he said.

"Those facilities are going to close, and it will start with Burns," Ferrioli warned. His prediction turned out to be right.

Friday was the last day of operation for the OYA facility in Burns.

"The total impact may not be realized for some time," said Karen Andall, executive assistant to the director of Oregon Youth Authority in Salem. The 50-bed facility in Burns, for example, was empty Feb. 14, so no youths were displaced directly by the closure. However, as judges mete out sentences to youth offenders in the region, those youths will require transfers from areas of the four closures to other facilities in Oregon.

House Bill 5100C mandated the cuts, contingent on failure of Measure 28, the tax-increase referral that voters denied.

Agency parole officers and community partners will devise plans for adjusting to the budget reductions, Andall said.

Legislation may reverse the cuts, but so far the closures remain intact both this fiscal year, ending June 30, and are reflected in the governor's 2003-2005 budget.

Ferrioli had appealed to Kulongoski to reconsider the closures. He stated in a press release that closure of the Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility in particular would "adversely affect public safety and severely damage the already shaky local economy with the loss of about 50 jobs."

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