Native American Spring Celebration at Coffee Creek

Spring Celebration is a First Foods ceremony held by every tribe in the Plateau region. The four sacred foods—salmon, deer meat, roots, and berries—are gathered and prepared traditionally using ancient teachings, songs, and prayer.   

These four foods are high in nutritional value and were the main staple foods of the Native American diet. This ceremony is about renewing the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional self. It is a time of forgiveness and gratitude for Native American people in the region, including Native American adults in custody (AICs) at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF).

AIC Shanna Cole stated, “We are blessed to be together, sing together, and share past suffering. Songs are healing power and allow the hurt inside to let feelings out in music”. 

Trish Jordan from the Red Lodge Transition Services along with several volunteers sponsor the annual Native Spring Celebration Ceremony. Trish was recognized this week as Volunteer of the Year at Coffee Creek for the institution’s National Correctional Officers and Employees week. Oregon Public Broadcasting was also invited to film the ceremony for a documentary. Thank you to OPB, Trish Jordan, and all the volunteers who made this event happen!

GED Graduates Recognized at Columbia River Ceremony

On April 24, 14 adults in custody (AICs) walked in Columbia River Correctional Institution’s (CRCI) spring GED graduation ceremony. Chief of Security and Interim Superintendent Joe DeCamp spoke to the graduates. CRCI has graduated 30 GED students this year so far, which is a fantastic accomplishment considering it’s one of Oregon’s smaller facilities. You can learn more about education and other opportunities offered at CRCI by visiting the Oregon Department of Corrections website.

A big congratulations to all the grads!

Check out the gallery below to see photos from the ceremony.

Coffee Creek Puppy is a True Lifesaver

Many of Oregon Department of Corrections’ (DOC) 14 institutions have dog training programs. DOC partners with local organizations to house, raise, and train puppies and dogs–sometime to give them a better chance at adoption, and sometimes to prepare the dogs for work as assistance animals. At Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF), the prison partners with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) to train puppies who will then provide independence to a person with a disability.

These dog programs not only benefit the puppies, but the adults in custody (AICs) who work with the animals. In the case of CCCF, AICs train the puppies onsite for approximately 18 months before they move on to more expanded training. Recently, a woman who was matched with a canine companion who was trained at Coffee Creek shared this amazing story:

The lifesaving Mr. Omaha

“I am an extremely grateful woman. My hero, Omaha, came to my rescue and I am here to shout from the rooftops what he did for me. I have been having breathing issues for about a month now and either lay on my side at night with the head of the bed elevated or sit up to sleep. I went to get into a reclining chair I have next to my bed that can be used as a zero gravity chair. I have never used it for that function because of how it lays a person back but I do raise my legs in it to help with swelling.

I went to get into the chair and the controls slipped from my hand. When that happened they fell to the floor and became wedged with the buttons pressed making the chair go into full out zero gravity position. I struggled and struggled to get up but I just wasn’t strong enough. Omaha was sound asleep in his kennel and came flying out to see what was going on. I couldn’t even speak as no air was going in my lungs. I was frantically pointing at the floor and he started looking for what I needed.

He was able to dig out the control and picked it up. But he wanted to give it to me from the opposite side of the chair… the cord was too short! I could only flap my hands by now and was going down for the count… he figured I needed him where my hand was flapping and he rushed over to the right side dropping the control in my lap but I couldn’t pick it up as I was blacking out by now. He kept pushing it and pushing my hand to where I could feel the buttons and I was able to hit the right one. Up we went! And blessed air started filling my lungs! He fretted over me for about 1/2 hour and is still glued to my side or feet but it is good to have him so close. He is my hero!”

Out of the Darkness Walk at Coffee Creek

Participants walk to spread mental health awareness

In partnership with Walk in the Light education team, American Foundations for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and with the help of Corporal Mecham, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF) coordinated an “Out of the Darkness Walk” this month.  The walk brought together 163 adults in custody (AIC) for suicide prevention and awareness and to create community among those who have been impacted by suicide.

The Walk in the Light team celebrating $3,000 dollars raised for AFSP

The Walk in the Light education team was formed when Tamara Upton heard about the walk and decided that Coffee Creek needed to come together as a community and support each other who have been affected by suicide.  Even though Upton was fighting stage 4 cancer she wanted to live to see the walk happen at CCCF.  On a cold rainy April morning, Upton saw her dream come true.  Walk in the Light education team each took turns speaking incredible words of inspiration and hope, and testimonies of personal struggle—coming together as a community.

When the different color bracelets were called out and hands were raised, a moment of silence marked a remembrance for those affected by suicide.  Superintendent Myers stated “Wearing blue or gray, suicide affects everyone in this facility.”

The Walk in the Light team raised over $3,000 to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Thank you to the Walk in the Light team for your initiative to bring an Out of the Darkness Walk to Coffee Creek!

Walk in the Light education team members include Tamara Upton, Angela Kim, Paige Couch, Kimberly Crawford and Carolyn Exum.

Adults in custody at Coffee Creek participate in the event

If you or a loved one are struggling, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Suicide is a threat to all people involved in corrections. The rates of inmate suicide are far higher than the national averages, and even higher still for special populations (including juvenile and LGBTI inmates), even corrections officers have a much greater occupational suicide rate.  Learn more

Powder River Gives Back to Baker City Community

Adults in custody (AICs) housed at Powder River Correctional Facility are encouraged to give back to the community that has graciously allowed the facility to operate inside the city limits for the past 30 years.

Powder River adults in custody stand with the results of the fundraiser!

For the month of March, AICs held a fundraiser that raised nearly $700. This money was used to purchase items for three different local organizations: New Directions Northwest Crisis Center, DHS Child Welfare and the Mayday Foundation. Each organization received care packages, including toys, books, personal hygiene items, Albertson’s gift cards, Subway gift cards, and children’s clothing. AIC Zaste, who participated in the fundraiser, expressed that “as people who are able, it is our duty to help those that are in need. I want these children to know that there are people in this world who care.”

More of the items given to local organizations

The AICs put together 30 bags total—with 10 big bags going to each organization. The experience was very meaningful for the men involved in the fundraiser. AIC LaNear shared, “Baker City has been a vital part of my recovery and rehabilitation through the Alternative Incarceration Program at Powder River Correctional Facility and becoming a pro-social member of a community is to give back. Thank you for allowing me to do that”

AIC Grisham also saw the opportunity to give back, and said it is part of his change process: “I have taken so much from my community in the past and having the chance to give back gives me hope that change is possible for me.” AIC Mastriano shared similar feelings, saying, “I really enjoyed participating…to be able to give back a little for the all the years of taking.”

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Former President Ronald Reagan signed the first National Crime Victim’s Rights Week (NCVRW) Proclamation in 1981 in collaboration with National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) founders and leaders in the victim rights’ movement. Every year, the nation observes a week in April to honor advancing policies and programs dedicated to helping victims of crime.

This year’s NCVRW theme, “Honoring Our Past. Creating Hope for the Future,” celebrates the progress made by those before us as we work toward a future of crime victim services that is even more inclusive, accessible, and trauma-informed.

The Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) Victim Services works in partnership with several local and national committees, groups, and agencies to improve and advance our resources and services. Currently, Oregon DOC Victim Services provides post-conviction support for crime victims, information and resources on a national and local level, VINE services, Facilitated Dialogue, and the upcoming Responsibility Letter Bank—which grants offenders the opportunity to connect with the victim and accept responsibility for the harm caused by their crime.

Oregon DOC understands the criminal justice process can be confusing and intimidating, and Victim Services strives to ensure victims’ voices are heard and valued, while acting as a guide during the inmate’s incarceration. It is our promise to treat all crime victims and survivors with dignity and respect while providing our services—with the hope of reducing the challenges victims face during post-conviction.

For more information on services provided, you can contact DOC Victim Services through our website or our toll-free number (888) 749-8080.

Tablets Come to South Fork

South Fork Forest Camp sign created by adults in custody

Telmate completed their installation of the tablet system at South Fork Forest Camp (SFFC) today, making the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) the first state correctional agency to have tablet services online and available at all facilities. The DOC-Telmate team began this work in August 2017, and SFFC was the last of DOC’s 14 facilities to receive tablets due to unique challenges in the installation process.

Telmate tablet (Photo: Telmate)

Adults in custody (AICs) housed at SFFC quickly logged on and began using the system. With a variety of messaging options offered through the tablets, AICs at South Fork now have another way of connecting to friends and family. Keeping AICs in touch with their community and support networks has been shown to reduce recidivism.

To learn more about Telmate and the services they offer in Oregon, visit their website or create an account.

Oregon Corrections Enterprises Collaborates with University

University of Oregon students and staff tour the OCE garment shop at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution

Last year, Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE) and the University of Oregon (UO) created a joint venture to connect design students with adults in custody at the Oregon State Penitentiary and Two Rivers Correctional Institution, with the goal of exploring furniture design and creating prototypes. Through a friendly competition, OCE awarded scholarships to the winning UO teams, and the project was featured at a furniture design show in New York City.

A UO student checks out some detail work

The furniture project was such a success that UO and OCE decided to partner once again–this time to design clothing. UO students traveled to the OCE garment factory at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution to learn about denim and other fabrics from adults in custody and shop staff. Once again, this exciting collaboration will be highlighted at a clothing design show in New York City.

Partnering with schools like UO gives both adults in custody and local students the opportunity to grow their skills. Students develop a better understanding of the work done by the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) and OCE, while adults in custody are offered the opportunity to share knowledge and connect with students in the community. This makes higher education less intimidating and more attainable to the many folks who will eventually leave DOC custody for life on the outside.

An adult in custody demonstrates part of the garment making process

For more information and some great personal testimony, check out this video that a UO journalism student put together.

Learn more about OCE’s Prison Blues garment factory.

Shutter Creek Forestry Crews Tackle Storm Debris

Adults in custody clean up after storms in Douglas County

Adult in custody (AIC) forestry crews out of Shutter Creek Correctional Institution recently helped re-open roadways to local residents after storm debris blocked travel. In just three days, these crews cleared and opened approximately 75 miles of state and country roads, including Highway 38 and 138 – a huge accomplishment!

The debris had left residents in the Scottsburg and Ash Valley areas unable to travel in and out of their own homes. In the image above, AICs on Lutsinger Road in Scottsburg were able to clear the road for about 15 homes that were blocked off.

The Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) coordinated with the Oregon Department of Public Transportation (ODOT), Doublad County Public Works Department, and the Coos Forest Protective Association to make this clean-up happen.

Powder River Washes Up

Everyone loves a good before and after! The Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) Facilities Services Division recently undertook a shower and restroom renovation project at Powder River Correctional Facility (PRCF) with the help of the PRCF Physical Plant and the PRCF Inmate Work Force (IWF).

Adults in custody (AICs) from the Powder River IWF were interviewed for special work skills, including basic construction and concrete experience. Ten AICs were picked to work on the second part of the upgrade, which took almost 20 weeks to complete.

The project included designs for an enhanced floor drainage system, fiberglass reinforced wall coatings, and new water- and mold-resistant wall board. All AIC showers and restrooms at PRCF have now been upgraded with the same design. The IWF adults in custody were instrumental, not only in the labor force, but in their team work and commitment. Paired with leadership from Facilities Services, this project was a huge success!

To top it all off, the project was created ahead of schedule. Way to go guys!