The Art of Communication is a program offered to qualifying adults in custody (AICs) at a number of Oregon Department of Corrections’ institutions across the state. Developed by Chaplain Trime Persinger at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI), the course teaches AICs how to build positive relationships and manage conflict situations through everyday conversations. This post is part of a series which aims to share the stories of AICs who have been impacted by the program.
Below, AIC Manuel Arellano explains how the program has changed his mindset. AIC Arellano shared his experience with Trime Persinger, who wrote it down as follows:
A lot of times I’m very apprehensive to share my stories because I’m conscious of what the other person will think of me. That makes me shy to express these things from my past but if it will help someone it’s OK.
On June 8, 2023, a proud group of adults in custody (AICs) gathered in the chapel at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution (EOCI) with a small number of loved ones and several staff. GED Instructor, Mr. Villers, opened the ceremony, followed by a wonderful invocation by Chaplain Zuleta. This was a bitter-sweet moment for all, as this is the last graduation ceremony with Blue Mountain Community College (BMCC). EOCI has enjoyed a long partnership with BMCC, and while we are sad to see them go, we look forward to continuing education programming for AICs.
Oregon State Penitentiary celebrates their Behavioral Health Unit’s first GED graduate – Jacobe Owens!
“My name’s Jacobe. I’m 26 and I finally got my GED. Now, I’ve been through a lot regarding this COVID and having to be patient to finish my GED. I finally got it and I really appreciate DOC continuing to be consistent with helping me achieve the GED. I also want to say that no matter what obstacles were in my way, I rose to the top and achieved this. And just because the DOC members and everybody that consistently chose to help get me through this, I will not stop here. I will continue to get my education, going to community college now that I’ve got two free years of college.”
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…
“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.
David Whiting Finds Relief From Stress in His Artwork
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.
Adults in custody (AIC) at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF) have an opportunity to learn a new trade skill for jobs post-incarceration.
The Department of Corrections (DOC) recently received a three-year grant through the Bureau of Justice Assistance Second Chance Act. This grant allows DOC to offer an industry recognized certification program through Baker Technical Institute (BTI) for AICs to become Heavy Equipment Operators. The new program uses simulation technology to train women at the correctional facility to use heavy construction machinery.
The AICs will also be trained on First Aid and CPR, Flagger Certification, and Forklift Certification. Wraparound services are also included, such as resume writing, job search assistance, and connections to WorkSource Oregon.
Cassandra Kuhr is one of the adults in custody that graduated from the program, and she has graciously shared her story.
The Sagebrush in Prisons Project (SPP) is a unique collaboration among the Oregon Department of Correction, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE). The goal of the project is to engage incarcerated men and women in habitat restoration and ecological science.
“I have been incarcerated for 10 years. During my time of incarceration, I have managed to accomplish many programs and developed skills to use in the workforce.
I have worked in maintenance for 2 years, then I worked in the welding shop for 3 years, and currently I work in the electrical shop for the past 5 years. I am also a Fitness/Yoga Instructor for the mental health AICs. For 3 years, I have been a mentor for other AICs to inspire them to take the road less traveled.
This October, I successfully completed the Electrical Apprenticeship Program. I am now a licensed Journeyman Electrician. With the electrical license and skills, I have developed, I will be financially stable with a career that is in high demand.
I am proud of my accomplishments and grateful for the support of my family, friends, and the staff here at Two Rivers Correctional Institution for contributing in guiding me through this journey of learning and growing into the fullness of my potential.”
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Oregon Department of Corrections’ institutions across the state. Developed by Chaplain Trime Persinger at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI), the course teaches AICs how to build positive relationships and manage conflict situations through everyday conversations. This post is part of a series which aims to share the stories of AICs who have been impacted by the program.
Below, AIC Eliseo Salinas uses the tools he learned in the program to demonstrate his patience and understanding. AIC Salinas shared his experience with Trime Persinger, who wrote it down as follows:
Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC), Corban University, and Paid In Full Oregon partnered to bring a four-year Bachelor of Science degree program to Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI). Corban University is a private university in Salem, Oregon, accredited by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities.
Paid In Full Oregon is a non-profit organization founded through a partnership with DOC and Corban University “to provide adults in custody (AICs) a fully accredited bachelor’s degree; potentially impacting the prison population throughout the State of Oregon.” Paid in Full Oregon raised all funds for this program, which started in the fall of 2019.