Some boys see opportunity at Rubenstein Juvenile Center - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Some boys see opportunity at Rubenstein Juvenile Center

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Photo by Andrea Lannom. Superintendent Stephanie Bond shows off Sadie, the center's pet. Photo by Andrea Lannom. Superintendent Stephanie Bond shows off Sadie, the center's pet.

DAVIS — Many boys sentenced to the minimum security Kenneth Honey Rubenstein Juvenile Center say they are thankful for one thing — the opportunity the center has given them.

These 15-21 year-old boys all have been sentenced to the facility from all over the state. And most will say how thankful they are about the change within themselves.

In fact, some residents choose to stay in the facility to further their opportunities.

What kinds of opportunities?

"If it weren't for being here, I never would have received my GED," one said.

These stories are not uncommon, said Stephanie Bond, the superintendent of the Rubenstein Center.

"When a kid leaves here, so many of them are the complete opposite of what they were when they came in," she said. "Their self esteem is higher; they have positive goals. They are confident in their abilities to succeed."

Part of their success stories comes from education. Bond said sometimes students come to the center because of truancy or expulsion.

However, when they get to the center, they are in smaller classrooms and given more individual attention.

"Our boys thrive here educationally," she said. "Sometimes they can't read when they get here, and they leave here reading on several grade levels higher."

The Rubenstein's education department is run through the state Board of Education. Students will take different tests to figure out the level where they belong. For example, if a cadet scores badly in math, they may have more than one math class.

"A majority of our cadets are 17 and older so they work toward their GED. Some are so behind in school that it's not feasible to get enough credits to graduate."

In addition, cadets may spend a half a day working on vocational classes. Here, they can receive certification in auto mechanics, building construction and welding.  

Boys also participate in community service around Tucker County. Bond said this year alone, cadets donated between 2,000 to 3,000 hours of community service.

"It's a great facility for the state of West Virginia's youth," Bond said. "There are so many things we are proud of. It has done amazing things for these boys."

Cadets will undergo a risk assessment, which looks at the current charges, past charges, behavior, past placements, substance abuse history, mental health, overall attitude and cadets' willingness to change.

Bond said they also look to see if possible cadets are amendable to change or if there is a propensity for escape or violence.

"We expect these boys to conduct themselves as mature young men," she said. "We expect them to be respectful as well.

"There are no alcoholic beverages or illegal substances, and if they get into a fight, are insubordinate toward someone else or assault someone else, there will be consequences."

Bond said there are problems in the juvenile justice system such as flat sentences, which means boys stay in the facility from one to two years, no matter what.

Bond said it would be better if juveniles instead left the facility once they completed the program, whenever possible.

However, it also depends on the charge. Under certain charges, they may only serve a flat six-month sentence and there isn't a lot judges can do about it, Bond said.

She said the problem is when the flat sentence is a year or more. 

"Cadets don't have internal motivation when they get here. Their outlook on life is poor. … Some have had terrible things to happen to them. Flat sentences continue with that. They don't have the motivation to do better. … If you think that you're out in a year no matter what, they think it doesn't matter how good or bad they do."

So how does staff keep cadets motivated even when they have these flat sentences?

"I think the main thing that sets us apart is our staff," she said. "We really care about these boys and we see them succeed when they leave. Without having that mindset and philosophy, we wouldn't be nearly as successful as we are."

Bond said it's all about making positive changes and focusing on what brought the kid to the facility.

"Show them the positives of making positive changes of how their life can be when they leave. Forget the sentence. Let's work on the self and make changes. … A lot are motivated to change. They are accepting of what we have to offer and they want to make the best of the situation."