Colorado Reform School Mimics A Normal High School

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Colorado’s Ridge View Academy is a unique reform school that teaches young offenders what most citizens learn at home: how to balance liberty with responsibility, says the Denver Post. The only fences at Ridge View’s verdant, boarding-school-style campus on a former bombing range are to keep cows out, not kids in. Student-athletes, as they’re called, are brought to court dates in shackles, as the state requires, but the shackles come off when they get back. There are mentors called coaches, but no guards. Boys are expected to get to classes and therapy on time, on their own, without being prodded. “It’s built upon the principle that there’s enough opportunity and enough good things here that people want to stay,” says one official.

Ridge View is a Denver Public Schools charter school. All 360 young males at the school are there because a judge told them to be. Most have violence in their background, principal John Fry said, though chronically violent offenders, sex offenders, arsonists and those with severe learning disabilities aren’t eligible.

Is it a jail or a school? Says the principal: “We take the best of the kids from the (state) Division of Youth Corrections and offer them a normalized high school experience. We’re a lot more of a schoolhouse than a jailhouse.” The facility is run by Rite of Passage, a private company.


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