A Toast to the Toastmasters

There is no debate, Theron Hall, cherishes the Toastmasters Club at the Oregon State Penitentiary

The President of the Capital Toastmasters Club tells his story…

Theron Hall, President, Capital Toastmasters

“For twenty plus years, the Oregon State Penitentiary has had support from local colleges and universities, and we have been competing in debates with them. Our goal was to greatly improve our debate program and with the support of our prison administration, College Professors, and our members, we have done just that. In 2009, Professors from Willamette University, Linfield College, and Northwest Christian University began volunteering their time to teach a Parliamentary style debate class to our members. At that point, our debate program began to flourish. In addition to our monthly meetings, cognitive classes, and speech contests, we now hold three debates a year with local colleges and universities and one debate tournament a year.

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An Artist’s Evolution

I met Timothy Lee Simpkins in 2015, awaiting my own sentencing in county. At the time, we were both were going through an intense period of uncertainty about the future. We connected over the serious amount of time we were both going to be doing, and we ended up serving our time in the same institution, Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. I’ve remained loosely connected to Lee over the years and have witnessed a transformation in him that is profound. Recently, I asked Lee to tell me about his experience.

Lee started his journey with visual art in 2015 when he realized his dream of becoming a musician was going to be put on hold for about ten years. Prior to his incarceration, Lee wrote, recorded and performed music. Spoken word and rap were how he expressed himself. “The first time I performed I was 15 in Berkeley California. I performed at a Cal State open-mic rap concert. I was so nervous getting up there on that stage, but after that first time, I was cool. I found out that the performance space was my natural habitat,” Lee said. He performed a few more times in Portland and Battleground Washington before being incarcerated.

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One Heart Transplant Done, What’s Next?

Enrichment Club Donation Recipient Receives Heart Transplant, Club Plans for Future Donations

A rare circumstance occurs when adults in custody (AIC) can so positively affect a community. The Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution’s Enrichment Club donation to the Children Oregon Transplant Association was one such rarity – an opportunity to raise funds for a local Pendleton student who required a life-saving heart transplant. High school student Miranda Case was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Now, after multiple heart surgeries and as a high school student with aspirations for college, she needed a complete heart transplant.

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Malachi Dads

Coached only by men, for men, Malachi Dads, is a faith-based program, at the Oregon State Correctional Institution, that offers life lessons for better living and better parenting. Written and developed first by adults in custody (AIC) of Angola State Prison in Louisiana, Malachi Dads is a community of men that help each other recognize their role as spiritual leaders of their families. As men participate in this program, they sense a genuine restoration and transformation, and live up to their understanding of biblical responsibilities as a father.

Below, six graduates graciously share their personal stories about how the program changed their lives.

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From Tattoos to Murals

David “Ringo” Wonnacott

There are many reasons why someone creates art – whether it be therapy, or stress relief, or just pure passion. When someone has that passion and the talent to match, it is a gift to all of us who see those creations. This is undisputed for an eclectic artist, David “Ringo” Wonnacott of Columbia River Correctional Institution. His portraits and murals can be found throughout the facility with everything from movie characters to scenes of nature, and even portraits of employee’s own furry friends. It all began for Wonnacott when he was a tattoo artist.

“I never spent much time as a kid doodling or coloring, it wasn’t until later that it interested me. I didn’t learn how to paint or draw or have any instruction, but I just knew I wanted to be a tattoo artist,” says Wonnacott. He was originally drawn to tattooing because of its representation of being taboo and grimy. Prior to tattooing becoming mainstream, it was stereotypically just bikers, criminals, the punk rock scene, and bad girls who would wear them. “The first tattoo I ever did was a rose, free handed, it just came naturally, and the money was good. I just knew it was for me,” he stated.

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1,000 Cranes – A Story of Hope

An inspiring story from the Oregon State Penitentiary’s (OSP) Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) featuring adults in custody (AIC) Issac Agee and Michael Issac…

From one quiet, dimly lit, and isolated cell of Oregon’s only Death Row Unit, a little bird was born. This was no ordinary bird. It was an “Urban Bird” and although free of feathers and flight, it was full of hope, joy, patience, and gratitude. This is when the art of origami was introduced to one of Oregon State Penitentiary’s adults in custody.

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From Palate to Palette

Former Chef Finds Culinary Skills Apply Well to the Art Field

“You know how you do homework? It’s the same thing.” Artist Seth Mathews described the variance in styles and art genres as he displayed photographs of hundreds of pieces, he has done over the last seven years. There are stacks of airy water-color art, with opaque black lines and semi-transparent splatters of color. There are lifelike photorealistic pieces where every line, light source, and graffito is thoughtfully placed. There are perspective artwork pieces, with a worm’s eye view to regal elk stepping into a clearing. There are abstract art, graffiti, and portraits – all which make for an unusual contrast in styles for one artist’s portfolio.

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“Taking Care of Our Own”

The CPOF Motto

Correctional Peace Officers Foundation (CPOF) was founded in 1984 and is a nationwide nonprofit charitable organization whose mission is to support correctional professionals and their families in times of tragedy and hardship. The formation of CPOF in the early 1980s centered around providing support to the unique needs of survivors of correctional professionals killed in the line of duty and to promote a positive image of correctional professionals to the general public and within the profession itself. It is important to note CPOF support is not limited to correctional officer members but also provides support to all employees who are members and work in prisons, institutions, jails, and parole/probation.

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Expression of Gratitude

AIC Galvin Lomboy

The Snake River Correctional Institution’s (SRCI) Resource Team recently participated in a very special dinner with Peer Mentor and Resource Team member, Galvin Lomboy who expressed how the Peer Mentorship has changed his life as an adult in custody (AIC). The dinner was made possible by the SRCI Correctional Rehabilitation team.

During the special event, AIC Lomboy articulated how he could not stop thinking about all the opportunities to better himself, and how he would dial in on the focus of his goals after incarceration and his desire to help others. In short, he expressed his goals to continue the humanitarian path after he has finished his sentence. He talked about his gratitude for all the support, advice, and guidance of the Resource Team. He continued to name each member and how much he has learned from each person in different ways. 

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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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