A Special Graduation and Passing of the Leash Ceremony at EOCI

Earlier this month, a heartwarming and transformative event took place at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution (EOCI). It marked the fifth Joys of Living Assistance Dogs (JLAD) program graduation and passing of the leash ceremony. AICs, EOCI staff, JLAD volunteers, and the fortunate recipients of these exceptional service animals attended the momentous occasion.

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Blue Mountain Community College Holds Last Graduation Ceremony at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution

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. 

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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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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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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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Artist Spotlight – Collaborative Art with Wayne Cummins and Herb Wood

Herb Wood (left) Wayne Cummins (right)

Inspiration is the first step for any artist, the fire starter if you will. But how does an artist seek out or find inspiration in the world? It differs for everyone. Some people find inspiration in nature, religion, or the world around them. Some people wait to be found by inspiration. For artist Wayne Cummins, inspiration found its way to him through friendship.

Cummins met his friend Herb Wood years ago living with him on a housing unit at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. They became friends through their shared interest in artwork and sketching.

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Kindness and Hope From Behind the Wire

Superbowl Nacho Event

2022 has been a busy year for the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution’s (EOCI) Enrichment Club. Fifteen adults in custody (AIC) volunteered nearly 1,200 hours of their time for fund raisers to help with multiple charitable causes.

Granny’s Tamale Event

So far, $17,609.84 has been donated by AICs, with another $3,000 in donations anticipated by the end of the year.

Some of the organizations that benefit from the Enrichment Clubs hard work include the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse, Pendleton Lions club, they help children get eye exams and glasses, Headstart, Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and more. 

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Former AIC Donates Books to EOCI

This article was written by the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution’s (EOCI) Supervising Executive Assistant, Chris Scarr. Chris received a call from a former adult in custody (AIC), Brent Leathers. Mr. Leathers graciously offered to donate books to the EOCI’s library. Continue reading about how Chris and Mr. Leathers worked together on the logistics and the excitement that followed, and get an update on Mr. Leathers.

In early June 2022, I received a call from former AIC Brent Leathers. Mr. Leathers informed me he is a member of the Library of America (LOA), a non-profit organization that preserves our nation’s literary heritage. He stated he had been given the opportunity to donate 50 books from LOA and would like to contribute them to the library at EOCI. A value of over $1100. He explained he enjoys reading, and it was reading books more than anything that helped him through his incarceration. He expressed he wanted to give back and hoped others would enjoy the same benefit from reading.     

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Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution’s JLAD Service Dog Program

JLAD Puppies

Here is a little history about the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution (EOCI) Joys of Living Assistance Dogs (JLAD) Service dog Program. EOCI started the program in 2016, after almost a year of planning. Approximately 70 percent of the dogs graduate from the program, which is above the national average. The training program started with 16 puppies and has expanded to 32 dogs. Only 16 dogs are trained at any given time, as the dogs are rotated in and out every week.

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