Job Corps closed campus

Jul 28, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

The decision is region-wide and may well have nothing to do with our center at all

Wind River Job Corps recently has instituted a "closed campus" policy for its young trainees. The instant conclusion drawn by some is that there must be trouble. Otherwise this would not have happened.

Hold on. Let's not be too hard on Job Corps.

Has the student body, if that is the proper term, been 100 percent perfect in its behavior over the past couple of years? Of course not. No other group of 200 people in town has behaved perfectly, either. Look yourself in the mirror and ask the question. Be honest.

Neither, however, has there been some kind of rampant pattern of misbehavior among Job Corps trainees. As a group, they're not filling up the courts, they're not filling up the arrest reports or filling up the police scanner with cop calls.

They aren't breaking windows, slashing tires, spray-painting the sides of buildings, shoplifting, keeping people up all night or any number of other things that would really constitute a problem if they were happening with frequency and severity that could be attributed to Job Corps.

It simply would be inaccurate and unfair to slap the "troublesome" label on Wind River Job Corps on the basis of this closed-campus decision. For one thing, every Job Corps Center in our larger regional district is doing the same thing. At the order of the Dallas regional office, Job Corps campuses are being tightened up at eight other centers in a half-dozen other states as well. If there even is a problem, it might have nothing to do specifically with Wind River Job Corps at all.

We have run a news item or two about a Job Corps kid who got crossways with the law. But we've run lots more news items from the opposite side, showing Job Corps trainees assisting in flood relief, rehabilitation of a recreation path, snow removal, and other community oriented service that capitalizes and expands on their training on the hill west of Riverton.

The closed-campus decision is significant, and we put the story of that decisionon page one when it happened. We would have done the same thing had it happened at Riverton High School or Central Wyoming College. These are public institutions, funded through taxpayer dollars. There is an element of public scrutiny that must accompany them if they are to be excepted as legitimate members of the community.

So, Job Corps told us what was going on when the campus was closed (it isn't closed entirely, by the way) and we performed our legitimate function by informing the public. But it need not be seen as any more than that - because we have no evidence that it is any more than that.

One Job Corps statement read that the move was done for the safety of the students. Is that so hard to believe? Any public institution has the obligation both to itself and to its tax-paying supporters to protect that institution. One way to do that is to keep the Job Corps students out of trouble. Restructuring off-campus privileges might do just that, particularly if a trend here or somewhere else in the Dallas district has raised a red flag.

A very good sign in this story is the public emergence of a student government group. Naturally, leaders of that entity complained about the closed campus -- but they also wrote a public letter of apology for any problems Job Corps trainees might have caused, or be causing, in the community. That's a letter we hope to publish in the newspaper. There is a strong sense that there could be a good deal of self-policing going on at the Job Corps campus from now on. A lot of problems can be dealt with effectively in that very way.

The benefits of the Job Corps mission are many-fold, well-documented and demonstrated historically around the country. Job Corps centers are good for the underemployed population, good for their host communities through campus construction, staff employment and annual appropriations, and for the national economy as better-trained, better-prepared workers graduate from Jobs Corps and accept positions of much more responsibility in society than they could have before the Job Corps experience.

None of that has changed simply because Wind River Job Corps went to a modified closed campus. It might have raised a few eyebrows among the gossips and rumor merchants, but the Job Corps record is strong enough to overcome that. Wind River Job Corps will be no exception.

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