A Look Inside “Gateways for Incarcerated Youth,” One of Evergreen’s Most Impactful Programs

This year, Evergreen faculty Eirik Steinhoff taught one of the college’s longest running and most impactful programs, Gateways for Incarcerated Youth. Founded in 1996, Gateways gives Evergreen students and youth incarcerated at the Green Hill juvenile prison in Chehalis a rare opportunity to engage in a transformative educational experience.

Since its inception, the Gateways program has made it possible for over 1,000 incarcerated youth to make academic gains in attendance and grade-level promotion and to realize their potential for positive change. This comes at an important time, when over 600,000 people are released from prison each year and recidivism rates are high.

“It’s pretty clear that the possibility of an education and the infrastructure for quality education are key factors that can help lower recidivism rates,” said Steinhoff. “I think it’s imperative that colleges, especially state institutions, contribute to the cause of transforming that system so that it operates at a completely different scale than the one its operating at right now.”

Founded by Evergreen faculty and alumna Carol Minugh, Gateways was first comprised of “culture groups” that met periodically at the Maple Lane Youth Detention Center. As youth in the program began to express the desire to learn more about a variety of topics, the program developed into what it is today: a two-credit college class for incarcerated youth and a corresponding academic mentoring program for Evergreen students.