The metal shop housed at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution (TRCI) offers a unique opportunity for adults in custody to learn the trade of welding and provide them with skills for a career upon their release. Former AICs who worked in the metal shop are now gainfully employed welders, working for reputable companies. Currently, there are seven AICs who have the coveted positions working inside the metal shop.
The most common projects fabricated in the metal shop are items like benches, tables, carts, and kitchen equipment. These items are put to use within the institution. Beyond the products fabricated for institution use, are items like firepits, stoves, gates, and signs.
Inside the metal shop, AICs can earn certifications in welding giving them the opportunity to be gainfully employed in iron work, heavy equipment manufacturing, metal fabrication, shipyards, and other manufacturing industries. It also provides an opportunity for a creative expression while learning the trade of welding.
Andrew Smith has been the shop coordinator at TRCI for 12 years, and really enjoys working with AICs, and providing them with a roadmap for a successful future outside prison. AIC Jarrod Pardun, one of the program participants, shared an analogy about learning welding: it’s like a haircut “You can always fix a mistake when welding, like you can fix a bad haircut – it might not be perfect, but it won’t be as messed up as it was in the beginning”.
Two Rivers Correctional Institution’s incentive unit PS4 video game tournaments has been a huge hit! The Paradigm Shift Club (PSC) hosted another video game tournament this year (first was Madden 23) but the Injustice 2 tournament received significantly more interest than the previous event.
The initial bracket is generated for each incentive unit where AICs play their on-unit tournament to determine an overall unit winner. The winner from each unit then plays in the final event against all eight housing units including the Minimum facility.
The video game tournaments are popular amongst the population because it reminds many AICs of their life before prison as many are lifelong gamers. Gaming has become a pastime and favorite activity within prison as well. The game tournaments offer AICs a platform to compete and put their skills on display for the institution.
The latest installment of the Paradigm Shift Clubs’ (PSC) PS4 video game tournament featured NBA 2K23. In an isolated prison environment where housing units individually provide entertainment and activities, the video game tournament is a place for AICs to socialize and compete with a broader audience.
The concept was born from Brandon Burge, a Paradigm Shift Club (PSC) member who has been corresponding with celebrities and pop culture icons during his prison sentence, requesting photos, words of inspiration, and signed memorabilia. Surprisingly, Brandon has received immense support and positive feedback as his collection includes magicians, sports stars, actors, and comedians to name a few.
Powder River Correctional Facility’s First Chess Tournament
The first of hopefully many chess tournaments to be hosted for our AICs, concluded Saturday! AIC Cara took the top seat, beating out AIC Scalera in the championship game.
The tournament brought 13 participants together in the double elimination contest. Players had 15 minutes on their game clocks and would receive a 2 second bonus for each move. In total 32 games were played to complete the bracket.
To start things off one contestant would hold a pawn of each color, one in each hand. While his opponent would pick a hand to determine which pieces each would play for their game.
AIC Scalera finished in second place. AIC Scalera had faced off against AIC Cara in the semi-finals, losing a very competitive game, but won out to face him again in the finals.
AIC Peterson came in 3rd place, having fought back from an early loss in the opening rounds Friday. He started out Saturday with quick impressive wins over AIC Yaw and AIC Jackson.
PRCF started its chess club back in October named “en Passant,” a French expression meaning “in passing,” and is a unique rule in chess. The name was chosen as we recognize these AICs are “in passing” through PRCF.
The club goal is to take concepts in the game, such as, thinking of consequences before you move, and applying that in their own lives. We look forward to hosting the next tournament hopefully in July.
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.
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.
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.