Adult in custody (AIC) Kirk Charlton has published several children’s books that he wrote and illustrated during his incarceration at the Oregon Department of Corrections. His books are part of a series called “I WANNABE.” Each book depicts stories about kids from all cultures and backgrounds who are fascinated with different career opportunities. Being part-Hawaiian, AIC Charlton shared that diverse representation in children’s literature is important to him. The stories are informative, inspirational, and describe different careers and hobbies in detail. AIC Charlton believes his books can make a difference in how children experience the world.
AIC Charlton has served nearly a 20-year sentence, and while incarcerated he became the creator and facilitator of the Art Inside Out (AIO) class at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution (EOCI) back in 2017. His first class that year had 6 students, the next had 10, and it continued to grow from there. Today, there are about 400 people on the program waitlist at EOCI. AIO was originally developed by Charlton to help incarcerated individuals deal with stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and addiction through art. It is a program that uses the creative process as a pathway for positive dialogue and self-improvement. AIC Charlton’s students learn to let go of negative thought patterns and open their mind to new and important ideas. They discuss positive concepts such as love, forgiveness, honesty, mindfulness, humility, and patience.
AIC Charlton’s time served has given him a chance to ruminate on the past and come up with a plan. He has been able to make “a transformation from hate to love” and has learned to deal with guilt and self-hatred. Art has given him mental stimulation and a way to express his feelings in a positive way. He developed AIO as a way to create transformative opportunities to fellow adults in custody. “Whatever you put into life,” he says, “you retain it and put it back out in other ways as a creative person.”
When AIC Charlton is released from prison this year, he plans to work on his children’s books, as well as bring the AIO therapy program to troubled youth, retired and elderly folks, war veterans, prisons, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. Thanks to support from Inmate Work Program Coordinator Dan Bielenberg and his own work ethic, AIC Charlton plans to write 16 children’s books in total, two of which are already available for purchase on Amazon. Charlton’s work has been written about in the East Oregonian (2018) and The Columbian (2014).
Stay tuned for our next AIC Spotlight on AIC Adam Jacobs (pictured above) and the Business in a Box program!