Michelle Inderbitzin and her colleagues focus on the positives of youth development.

Michelle Inderbitzin
Michelle Inderbitzin

In 1998, Michelle Inderbitzin decided to conduct a study of youth in a detention center for violent offenders. Almost every Saturday morning for 15 months, the University of Washington graduate student in sociology made the 90-minute drive from Seattle to an “end-of-the-line training school” for boys convicted of multiple property crimes, armed robberies, violent and/or sexual assaults and homicides.

At first, the reception was cold. Inmates ignored her, later saying they expected her to give up and leave. Eventually one of the older youths, a 19-year-old Hispanic boy respected by the others, approached her and began to talk. Gradually, others followed, sharing details of their lives, their dreams, frustrations and unsettled scores that awaited them back home.

Now an associate professor of sociology at Oregon State University, Inderbitzin shares her knowledge with OSU students through courses on criminal justice and deviant behavior. In 2007, she became the first university professor on the West Coast to lead a class of students and men’s prison inmates through the national Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which promotes understanding of the criminal justice system.

Inderbitzin and her colleagues at OSU are tackling some of the most pressing challenges that confront families and youth: the development of positive behaviors; the channeling of youthful energy to meet community needs; the lengthening transition to adulthood.

Read more about Michelle Inderbitzin and her colleagues in the Summer 2008 issue of Terra.

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