A Home Away From Home

In August 2015, Tracy Huling interviewed Jennifer Vinson, a former resident of the New York State Training School for Girls, at her home in upstate New York. Jennifer remembers being at the juvenile detention center in Hudson, NY in 1972 and 1973 when she was approximately 14-15 years of age. Jennifer’s time there was preceded by a stay at Mount Pleasant, a school in Westchester County developed to “serve the needs of students with socio-emotional disabilities” and at Woodfield Cottage in Valhalla, NY, a maximum security facility for violent youth which a 1997 New York Times article described as “Westchester's equivalent of a Rikers Island for juvenile offenders.”

Jennifer was released from the Hudson Training School to foster care in Brooklyn and that was followed by stints in additional facilities, including Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, New York’s maximum-security prison for women. Jennifer says several girls she knew at the Hudson Training School ended up in prisons for adults and are still in recovery.

Today, at the age of 55, Jennifer works in the transportation industry, cares for family members, and is preparing to purchase her first home with her partner.

In this excerpt from her oral history interview, Jennifer recalls the circumstances of her childhood that led to her being at the Girls' Training School in Hudson. She also describes what daily life was like at the institution for residents in that time period, just a couple years before it was closed in 1975 by then Governor Hugh Carey. At the end of the excerpt, Jennifer reflects on “bad kids” and why she believes it’s a good thing she had no kids of her own.