Artist Spotlight – My Story, My Canvas

David Whiting Finds Relief From Stress in His Artwork

David Whiting

A uniting factor among incarcerated artists is the therapeutic benefit that art delivers to each practitioner. Each person connects to their art in a unique way, but the benefits are similar and equally inspiring. For David Whiting, a visual artist living at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, art has become more than just a hobby – it’s a way of life for him.

Whiting began his journey with art more than 20 years ago while sitting in county jail in Eugene. He began by copying cartoons out of newspapers. Navigating the constant stress and pressures of time spent in county, “sketching and tracing became an escape for me, and eventually a meditation,” he says. Once he got to prison, Whiting began experimenting with nature sketches using a wider variety of mediums.

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For some time now, the Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI) has been growing novelty bananas plants for the enjoyment of visitors, staff, and adults in custody (AICs). AICs that work at the OSCI Greenhouse maintain these enormous plants, and twice a year the AICs thin them down to ensure healthy regrowth of the plants for the next growing season.


Artist Spotlight – Collaborative Art with Wayne Cummins and Herb Wood

Herb Wood (left) Wayne Cummins (right)

Inspiration is the first step for any artist, the fire starter if you will. But how does an artist seek out or find inspiration in the world? It differs for everyone. Some people find inspiration in nature, religion, or the world around them. Some people wait to be found by inspiration. For artist Wayne Cummins, inspiration found its way to him through friendship.

Cummins met his friend Herb Wood years ago living with him on a housing unit at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. They became friends through their shared interest in artwork and sketching.

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Kindness and Hope From Behind the Wire

Superbowl Nacho Event

2022 has been a busy year for the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution’s (EOCI) Enrichment Club. Fifteen adults in custody (AIC) volunteered nearly 1,200 hours of their time for fund raisers to help with multiple charitable causes.

Granny’s Tamale Event

So far, $17,609.84 has been donated by AICs, with another $3,000 in donations anticipated by the end of the year.

Some of the organizations that benefit from the Enrichment Clubs hard work include the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse, Pendleton Lions club, they help children get eye exams and glasses, Headstart, Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and more. 

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A Story of Accomplishment – By Cassandra Kuhr

BTI President, Doug Dalton presenting Cassandra Kuhr her diploma

Adults in custody (AIC) at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF) have an opportunity to learn a new trade skill for jobs post-incarceration.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) recently received a three-year grant through the Bureau of Justice Assistance Second Chance Act. This grant allows DOC to offer an industry recognized certification program through Baker Technical Institute (BTI) for AICs to become Heavy Equipment Operators. The new program uses simulation technology to train women at the correctional facility to use heavy construction machinery.

The AICs will also be trained on First Aid and CPR, Flagger Certification, and Forklift Certification. Wraparound services are also included, such as resume writing, job search assistance, and connections to WorkSource Oregon.

Cassandra Kuhr is one of the adults in custody that graduated from the program, and she has graciously shared her story.

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Nate Bake and His Australian Shepherds

Nate Bake

Outside of Snake River Correctional Institution, Recreation Specialist II Nate Bake and his wife Stephanie raise and train working Australian Shepherd dogs that compete in herding competitions around the US. Qualifying for the finals is an accumulation of points throughout the herding year. The 25 dogs with the highest total points in each stock – which include cattle, sheep, ducks, and geese – are invited to participate in the finals. This year, the event took place in Bryan, Texas. With much dedication and passion, both Bake and his wife qualified and entered seven of their Australian Shepherds in the nationals and finals, and they all did exceptionally well.

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Art of Communication: Yohannes Story

Yohannes Tesfay

The Art of Communication is a program offered to qualifying adults in custody (AICs) at a number of Oregon Department of Corrections’ institutions across the state. Developed by Chaplain Trime Persinger at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI), the course teaches AICs how to build positive relationships and manage conflict situations through everyday conversations. This post is part of a series which aims to share the stories of AICs who have been impacted by the program.

Below, AIC Yohannes Tesfay explains how the program has changed his mindset. AIC Tesfay shared his experience with Trime Persinger, who wrote it down as follows:

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Warner Creek Correctional Facility Opens a New Transitional Community Unit

Transitional Community Unit

Warner Creek Correctional Facility (WCCF) became the first Oregon Department of Corrections facility to open a Transitional Community Unit (TCU).

The TCU will provide a more normalized environment due to living in a retrofitted housing unit with less of a population than other units for the adults in custody (AIC). Other privileges include are more storage, area rugs in the bunk areas, dividers, and partitions between the bunk areas, vending machines, washers, dryers, and toaster ovens.

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South Fork Forest Camp Introduces the Joys of Living Assistance Dogs Program

South Fork Forest Camp (SFFC) recently partnered with the Joys of Living Assistance Dogs (JLAD), a non-profit organization dedicated to training and raising service dogs. Their mission is to provide skilled, devoted service dogs to support and assist persons living with disabilities – creating cohesive teams focused on building a life of greater freedom and independence. The adults in custody (AICs) train them, and then the dogs are placed with individuals that need them.

Last week, SFFC received their first set of eight puppies who will be rotated through SFFC four at a time. These dedicated AICs at SFFC put their hearts and souls into these dogs, and clearly the dogs do wonders for these individuals too. Below are testimonials from AICs talking about how the program has, and will, impact their lives.

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