Camp Owen is an honor and work camp and it holds true to that tradition today, as staff and allied agencies provide services which promote discipline, a strong work ethic and individual responsibility. All youth are committed by Superior Court for treatment purposes. All programming is geared to provide youth with the necessary tools to remain crime free upon their return to the community. Youth attend school, participate in evidence based treatment and contribute to the maintenance of the facility on work crews. Camp staff and work crews include caring for chickens and pigs, working in the garden which produces food for the Dining Hall, as well as being assigned to kitchen, laundry, maintenance, grounds and community service projects.
Founded in 1938 and named for Superior Court Judge Erwin Owen, Camp Owen began with the acquisition of approximately 56 acres on a special use permit from the United States Forestry Service. At that time, a temporary camp was established one mile north of old Kernville. Some of the wooden and adobe structures remain in use today. Camp was developed with minimal funds. A great amount of youth labor was used to create the original Camp. Large buildings that were constructed, utilized cement blocks made on site by the boys sent there from Superior Court. These buildings include the gym, original barracks and the school building.
Camp Owen’s current director is Robert Kilgore, a 20-plus year veteran of the Kern County Probation Department. Mr. Kilgore has been the director for over two-and-a-half years. Camp’s assistant director is Elaine Moore, a 22-year veteran of the department. Before his assignment at Camp, Mr. Kilgore served as an officer in juvenile supervision, the aftercare unit, court hearing officer, juvenile investigations, juvenile intake, repeat offender prevention program supervisor, and Division Director of Administrative Services. An honors graduate of California State University, Bakersfield, Mr. Kilgore holds a degree in Criminal Justice. He also has graduate studies experience from the University of Arkansas. Mr. Kilgore also attended and graduated from Bakersfield College and Shafter High School.
Mr. Kilgore is excited to be a speaker at the Kern Valley Historical Society this month and will give a presentation regarding not only the history of Camp Owen but also an overview of the current program for the youth it serves.