Children find a new path at the Hocking Valley Community Residential Center

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MK 15, of Scioto County waits for a staff member to provide him with shampoo. Residents are divided into three different ‘zones,’ or living spaces, and must communicate through protective windows anytime they need help. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
The young men of Hocking Valley Community Residential Center (HVCRC) play an evening game of basketball on November 28, 2022. Basketball was banned for several weeks due to rough play but has recently started back up again. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
NP plays Uno with his mom on Sunday December 11, 2022. Guardians are allowed to sit with residents and play games for several hours every Saturday and Sunday. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
CD talks on the phone in the hallway on November 9, 2022. Youth are allowed to use the phone every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
JF of London, Ohio mops the floor of the cafeteria on November 14, 2022. The boys take turns mopping, washing dishes, and taking the trash out each week. JF recently received his high school diploma from Buckeye Community School and is waiting to be released after one year. “I’ve been waiting so long for this,” says JF, who has been taking CDL classes at Tri-County Career Center and plans to pursue a job as a truck driver. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
Residents are sometimes required to write lines when they misbehave. Other punishments include being banned from recreational time or losing video game pledge during the weekend. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
MK rests his head on the table after getting a tooth pulled on November 16, 2022. One of the first things residents do upon arrival at HVCRC is go to ‘medical’ for a checkup. Kitts was at JDC for six months prior to arriving at HVCRC. “JDC is way worse than here” Martin says, “I slept on the floor some nights because the mattress was so uncomfortable.” [Walker Smith | WOUB]
LM and NP eat pudding during evening snack time on November 28, 2022. The boys receive two snacks a day along with three full meals. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
Aaron Stanford cuts a resident’s hair in the medical room on November 16, 2022. Stanford works full time at Bam & Bros Barbershop in downtown Athens, OH but comes by the center every other Monday to give haircuts. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
NP, 16 of Lawrence County supports a fellow resident after a game of flag football. Depending on the weather, the boys play organized games outside in the afternoon. Occasionally these games result in injury and a staff member must do paperwork and transport the youth to a designated doctor. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
EM 16, of Meigs County plays “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana as other residents watch and listen. “There’s not a lot to do in Meigs, it’s pretty boring there,” says E who has been in and out of juvenile facilities since he was twelve. Depending on behavior, residents are allowed to practice guitar during designated times. E has been in and out of juvenile facilities since he was twelve. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
AG, 14, of Gallia county changes the sheets on his bed in preparation for a room inspection. Those who don’t pass inspection may be penalized through a point system. The boys move up, or down, zones based on the point system. The sooner a resident reaches zone three, the sooner they can meet with a parole officer about getting released. At HVCRC there’s incentive to stay on good behavior because it could mean quicker release. Aside from zone incentives, residents can also work towards leaving the facility for local sporting events, movies, and even church- under supervision. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
DM 18, of Gallia County shows off his tattoo during down time. M has been taking welding classes at Tri-County Career Center and plans to get back to work once released. Older residents can earn the right to attend classes off-site and even hold down a part-time job. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
The young men at Hocking Valley Community Residential Center (HVCRC) line-up before returning to their zones. Residents are required to walk in a line anytime they move about the facility as a group. Security cameras and mirrors are located around every corner to monitor behavior. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
MK sits at his desk in a classroom at Hocking Valley Residential Center on Nov 16, 2022. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
AG helps CS complete his schoolwork so that he can move up to the next zone on Dec 11, 2022. Moving to a higher zone means more freedom and responsibility. [Walker Smith | WOUB]
C.S. makes a snow angel during the first snow of the season on Nov 18, 2022 [Walker Smith | WOUB]

Editors note: All names have been abbreviated to respect the privacy of the residents.

NELSONVILLE, Ohio (WOUB) — Hocking Valley Community Residential Center (HVCRC) is an all-male correctional facility located at the edge of Nelsonville, Ohio. Founded in 1993, HVCRC is one of eleven subsidized community-based corrections facilities operating through the RECLAIM initiative. RECLAIM Ohio stands for “Reasoned and Equitable Community and Local Alternatives to the Incarceration of Minors.” The RECLAIM model was developed in 1993 as a response to overcrowded conditions in the state’s juvenile facilities. The goal of this initiative is to take low and middle risk offenders out of large Juvenile Detention Centers (JDC) and provide them with resources to help overcome poverty, mental illness, and behavioral issues.

“About half of these kids are in here for what might be considered violent charges but I wouldn’t describe them as being violent,” says executive director Bob Bowser. “They’re just teenage boys.”

HVCRC currently houses twelve male juvenile offenders from surrounding counties in southeast Ohio. It is a staff-secured facility, meaning residents may walk out the door at any time, but the police will be notified. Many of these boys come from the poorest areas in the state according to census data from 2014-2018. Of the top ten highest ranked counties for child poverty in Ohio, half of these are located within HVCRC’s jurisdiction. HVCRC provides individual counseling, group therapy, sex-offender programming, on site school, and even trade-school classes at Tri-County Career Center.

“You’d be surprised by how many kids don’t want to go home,” says Program Coordinator Neil Sommers. “A lot of these offenders have been offended themselves. There was a boy living in a camper with four adults and no running water before he arrived, another came back from pre-release treatment pass with bed bugs.” For some of these boys, life at home doesn’t always look optimistic- and the problems they’re facing are usually out of their immediate control. HVCRC at least provides residents with a safe environment to help work through some of these generational issues and implement a plan for the future.