Youth prison takeover was short-lived

Guards locked 'unruly' youths in one quadrant; no one was injured

GRANTS PASS — A group of 11 boys incarcerated at the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility in east Grants Pass briefly took over about 25 percent of the prison Sunday night after guards started a search for contraband.

About 8 p.m., 11 of the 20 youths who live in the unit became "unruly," so guards left, but locked the youths into the quadrant, facility Superintendent Ken Jerin said. The other nine youths were evacuated.

"The kids became unruly and the staff backed out of the unit," Jerin said.

Police special weapons teams and negotiators were called in.

A spokesman for the Oregon Youth Authority said he did not know specifically what contraband the guards were looking for.

During the incident, a boy who claimed to be from the facility called the Daily Courier and left a recorded message.

"This is a youth at Rogue Valley Youth Correction," he said. "This is a riot. We're "¦ taking over. We've got the cops here. We've got three hostages. Get some press here. This is no joke."

Despite the high drama, Jerin said there were no injuries other than scratches or cuts to OYA employees, and no inmates or police were injured.

Three staff members were in the quadrant at the time of the takeover. Two backed out and another barricaded himself in an office for about an hour, Jerin said. The inmates took over a day-room area.

The youths trashed the place. Items were thrown, including something that struck a staff member, causing a cut to the hand. Another staffer suffered a scratch on his leg.

Once police arrived, a command post was set up inside the facility. Shortly after midnight, the last inmate gave up. It is not yet known whether the youths who were involved had weapons.

"Lots of property damage," Jerin said. "We're very grateful nobody got (seriously) injured."

About 20 youths were in the unit at the time of the incident. Nine did not participate, nor did any other inmates in the facility participate, Jerin said. The involved unit houses boys 17 years old and younger.

Special weapons teams from Oregon State Police and the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety responded, as did a negotiating team from the city. Jerin and several OYA employees also responded.

"A big thank-you to Grants Pass police," Jerin said.

In addition to police, firefighting and ambulance units were also sent to the youth prison as a precaution. The OYA facility is at 2001 N.E. F St., across from the back side of Walmart and next to the Josephine County Jail. The facility has four separate units, each large enough to sleep 25 youth inmates. Seventy-nine inmates are currently housed there.

Jerin said the cause of the disturbance is under investigation. Detectives from the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety and the Oregon State Police have interviewed participants. Jerin said he expects prosecution of those involved, and said he expects some to be moved out of the facility.

Things were calm at the facility at sunrise today.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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