In the annals of Oregon’s prison history, the year 1968 stands as a somber reminder of one of the most violent and destructive days within the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP). The OSP Riot of 1968 scarred the institution, leaving one prisoner dead, numerous injured, staff held hostage, and the penitentiary grounds engulfed in flames. Yet, from the ashes of this calamity emerged an unexpected glimmer of hope and transformation, embodied in the creation of the Lifers’ Unlimited Club (LUC).
Amidst the chaos, the acting Oregon State Governor walked into a conference room at OSP, seeking to comprehend the magnitude of the situation. Negotiations during this crisis led to an extraordinary agreement—the establishment of prisoner-led groups or “clubs” that would voice their concerns and work towards a better future within the prison. The Lifers’ Unlimited Club emerged as the first of these groups, predominantly comprising individuals serving life sentences.
The LUC saw an opportunity for change. Instead of succumbing to the despair of their circumstances, they envisioned a future defined by personal growth, acceptance of responsibility, and transformation despite incarceration. Their logo, a Phoenix rising from the ashes, encapsulates their mission—to rise above their situation and create a positive environment within the prison walls.
In recent years, the LUC has taken significant strides towards their vision of positive change. Collaborating with prison administration, universities, and national organizations, they have developed transformative programs and services. These initiatives enable both lifers and non-lifers to proactively pursue growth and development. From harm-reduction classes to wellness resources, the club strives to provide a holistic approach to rehabilitation for all OSP prisoners.
The OSP Riot of 1968, a day of devastation, unknowingly planted the seeds of change. From this destructive event, hope emerged, embodied in the resilience of the Lifers’ Unlimited Club. Their journey symbolizes the triumph of the human spirit, reminding us that even amidst the darkest moments, positive change is possible. The Phoenix within them continues to rise, radiating strength and renewal, illuminating the path to a brighter future.
For those seeking to learn more about the Lifers’ Unlimited Club and their programs, click here. Together, let’s support this journey of hope.
Written by members of the Lifers’ Unlimited Club