Interview With Don Willott

From the interview with Don Willott of Bainbridge Island, WA conducted by Wendy Los at the Fort Worden History Center on March 23, 2004. Mr. Willott worked at the Fort Worden Juvenile Treatment Center from September 1967 to June 1968 for his second year placement as a graduate student in social work from the University of Washington. Here he describes what his work involved:

“It was called a practicum. You had your book learning, the classes at the university and for two days a week you were actually doing a job similar to what employees were doing, but under supervision because you were starting out.

…I hadn’t been to Port Townsend or Fort Worden that I could remember. When a female student and I drove up, we pulled into a gas station up on the outside of town and asked if we were in Port Townsend yet. They told us no, but if we went down the hill we’d find it. I saw there was a real town, a pretty old and historic town, and then we found the Fort.

… It was fun, because we stayed in the Commanding Officer’s Quarters, folks called it the Red House. We’d stay overnight there, and there was a housekeeper who kept the place up. There were other people who visited, like people from other institutions who needed to come. It was used as a guest area.

…I knew no one when I got here as a student. We had a field instructor who was our supervisor, Bob Warfield. Later on, I worked at Western State Hospital and he also worked there. There was a system of treatment centers across the state, this was one of a group in different places. They tended to be divided by how severe, how delinquent the behavior had been, and by age. Fort Worden tended to have junior high age kids. Echo Glen had younger kids, Green Hill School had older kids. There were forest camps that all had junior high or older kids. (My job) was like counseling. They were kids who had been in some trouble and they were committed here by a juvenile court and had gone through Cascadia Diagnostic Center in Tacoma. The nature of the program here was a treatment program by contrast with the current program which is more a correctional program. People think of it much more like juvenile jail. I think the kids who were here appreciated it, but obviously it was a mixed kind of thing, they missed being home and what not. I think the average stay would probably be under a year. It was not a sentencing, the court didn’t say how long, the staff here decided how long.”

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