Okeechobee, Fla. — Bill, 18, wearing a protective mask of clear plastic, leaned forward slightly as he pushed a piece of wood through the power saw in his woodworking classroom here at the state's largest juvenile prison.
A few minutes later, sitting outside near the tall security fence, he explained why he was happy. After three years of being locked up in various state facilities for a series of crimes, including auto theft, he was to be freed next week. He is convinced he won't be coming back.
Bill said things had changed since officials here let him go home on a furlough not long ago. At home, ''I found out my parents love me,'' he says. ''It was there all the time.'' But he had fought them for years, he says.
Changes at this prison helped him, too, he says. His actions often reflected ''the living conditions over there,'' he says, pointing to one of the cottages now condemned as ''unsafe'' by the state.
Cottage renovations plus a program of release one week earlier for every one week of good behavior, encouraged him, he says. His grades improved in classes; he even started a garden. His plans: get a job, and later join the Marines.