Teens still at large after escape from custody

Three teenagers escaped the Jackson County Juvenile Justice building's residential unit just after midnight Wednesday by smashing out a second-story window with gym weights and tying sheets together to climb down, police said.

Sgt. Brent Mak of the Medford police said the residential unit's security is not as tight as the detention blocks and that there are no bars on the windows.

"This was not a full-blown escape from jail," Mak said.

The three boys, 14, 15 and 17 are from Ashland, Medford and White City respectively. They were roommates, Juvenile Department officials said. Because of their ages, the Mail Tribune is not releasing their names.

The juveniles barricaded themselves in their room by tying a restraint to the door handle, as the doors open out into the hallway.

The 17-year-old was apprehended by police at the intersection of West McAndrews Road and Central Ave. shortly after the escape. He had minor injuries due to a fall during the escape, but did not require hospitalization. He was taken to the detention side of the facility on felony charges of criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.

The 14-year-old and 15-year-old were still missing late Wednesday. Anyone with information on their whereabouts should contact Medford police at 541-774-2200.

The residential program facility is a voluntary program run by Juvenile Justice staff for youths who have had issues while on probation. Correction: See below

It is in the second floor of the center, where two detention units are also housed, but is not part of the detention program. Sex offenders are not housed there, but youths on probation for other crimes can be residents.

"It's really any other delinquent kids," Ferguson said.

Residents of the 15-bed, all-male facility live there, attend class, are involved in community activities and go on home visits, Ferguson said. Prior to the program's inception a little over a year ago — it replaced a traditional shelter program — similarly troubled youth were sent to Oregon Youth Authority facilities.

"The idea is to keep kids locally," Ferguson said. "It's kind of like a transition center."

The rooms are also less secure. There are no bars on the windows and residents can move around the room freely.

The broken window will cost more than $1,000 to fix, officials said. They said they were unsure if the incident will result in tightened security at the program.

"We deal with a tough clientele," Ferguson said. "We'll review everything that happened and make some decisions. We will more than likely not make it (the residential space) into detention."

He said hiring additional program staff is unlikely, as it would be graveyard work when most of the residents are asleep.

"Kids have to take some sort of ownership," Ferguson said of the program. "If they don't, there are some natural consequences."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

Correction: Details about how the program is run have been corrected.

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