Santiam Correctional Institution walks “Out of the Darkness”

AIC Pedro Perez speaks to SCI’s “Out of the Darkness” attendees as Dan Bielenberg, Shea May, and Ryan Price look on.

In early 2017, Santiam Correctional Institution (SCI) committed to build a partnership with AFSP in an effort to educate and assist with funding and research to reduce suicide in correctional settings. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has been a leader in research and reduction of Suicide in the United States since 1987.  Thanks to this partnership, SCI was the first correctional facility in the nation to host such a suicide prevention walk!

From left to right: AFSP Oregon Area Director Ryan Price; Dave’s Killer Bread Founder Dave Dahl; and SCI Superintendent Kimberly Hendricks

Recently, SCI held its third “Out of the Darkness” walk, and are now joined by six other participating facilities in Oregon and many more facilities across our nation. Nearly everyone has some type of connection to loss from suicide or an attempted suicide. SCI and the Oregon Department of Corrections are proud to be leaders in the effort to reduce the rate of suicide attempts in correctional settings.

SCI Superintendent Kimberly Hendricks and her team, including Dan Bielenberg and Shea May, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, put together a thoughtful, engaging, safe, and fun event. 

Adults in custody (AICs) shared their stories of struggle and expressed support and hope for the future. Below you can read the testimony of AIC Pedro Perez, who wrote a moving piece on the topic of suicide prevention:

I first heard of this walk last year here at Santiam and I wanted to be a part of this because I don’t want people taking their own lives. I know that I’m in prison and that I’m supposed to be a tough guy, and I am. It’s just that I care about other people and I want to see life excel all around me, and suicide is a killer that doesn’t care who we are, who we know, or who we love. This killer is smart, sneaky, and fast, it gets into the mind, deteriorates our strength, and just like that someone you love or someone you know is gone forever and I’m not really feeling that. I believe communication is key in fighting this killer so I’m here because I want to help spread awareness to this walk and to this conversation.

So here is the letter I wrote for people who might be struggling…

I know you’re going through some things right now, and I want you to know that you’re not alone, that I love you, even if I don’t know you and I got your back.

          You don’t have to go… you can stay.

This world is magic because you’re in it, and if you make it through the night, tomorrow’s a brighter day. You just need to be strong, and if you can’t, let me know. I’ll hold your hand through whatever and we can be strong together.

           Don’t go, just stay!

I know you may be feeling that you ain’t got no reason to live or maybe that nobody needs you anymore, but that’s not true. I’ve been through some things too and I need you.

I need you to stay, so that when I can’t be strong for myself, maybe you can be strong for me too, and we can be here for each other.

Because even if I don’t know you. You are the sun in my day. When you smile, you shine far and wide and believe me, you have an impact on the world. I’m rooting for you whether you win or lose because I marvel at how you develop from the negative,

It makes me happy when you laugh and it hurts to see you in pain, because even if I’ve never met you…

  That’s the power that you have just because you’re you.

            SO please don’t go, just stay… for me.

Your Friend Forever, Pedro

AIC Pedro Perez

Local news station KATU also covered this event. See the story.