Author Archives: michelle

The Best Days Inside are Family Days

field dayMy Spring 2014 Inside-Out class managed another first – my students were able to plan and host a Family Field Day for youth in the Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility on Saturday.  As a service-learning project for our shared college class, students from Hillcrest and Oregon State University planned a day where youth and their families could be outside, play games together, and enjoy more freedom of movement than normal visits in the facility allow.

Family members were invited to either a morning session or an afternoon session, and students from the class and volunteers from OSU manned stations with the following activities: face painting; cookie decorating and eating; potato sack races; water balloon tosses; basketball; and soccer.  A lot of little kids – the children, siblings, or nieces and nephews of the young men of Hillcrest – were able to attend the event, and they seemed to have a great time playing and running around the facility’s front greens.

CIMG3536CIMG3534Students from the Inside-Out class also hosted a fundraiser during our Family Field Day, selling lunches of BBQ cheeseburgers, potato or macaroni salad, potato chips, and pink lemonade for $5 per person.  The students decided that the funds raised would be equally split between a Hillcrest College Scholarship Fund and a donation to a community group that works with at-risk youth in Portland, Oregon.  This fits perfectly with our class discussions on prevention and rehabilitation, and our guests seemed happy to support the cause.  I haven’t seen the final numbers yet, but I think the BBQ fundraiser (also held during regular visiting hours on Sunday) raised in the neighborhood of $1000.  Amazing.

A related service-learning project that my students are continuing to work on is to create a child-friendly space for families visiting at Hillcrest.  The administrators have given us a fairly large room to work with, and my students are helping to clean it out, paint it (including the use of chalkboard paint so kids can draw on the walls), decorate it, and furnish it with toys so that kids visiting the young men of Hillcrest have a place to be active and play together.  We are planning a grand opening of the kids’ room on Father’s Day.  Stay tuned – I’ll try to post photos!

Obviously to make any and all of this possible, we have had – and continue to have – tremendous support from the administrators and staff at Hillcrest and from the larger Oregon Youth Authority.  The Hillcrest administrators are pretty wonderful in letting my students and I pursue our ideas and projects.  And, to their great credit, my students came with positive attitudes and enthusiasm all quarter long, and we accomplished a great deal in a 10-week class.

I’m sad to see this class ending, but I know our efforts have made a lasting impact at Hillcrest and on each of us who had the privilege of participating in this unique and fun experience.

More photos from We are the 1 in 100

dougkelseydecourtneynickkatie

Representing the 1 in 100 Americans behind bars and those in the community who care about them and are affected by these incredible numbers, I ask my students in every Inside-Out course that I teach to share one key thought with the larger public.  I’ve shared photos from my previous Inside-Out classes on this Public Criminology blog, and will continue to do so as students put time and care into their messages.  This is the first time I’ve been able to put up photos of young men in the youth correctional facility.  I think the first photo here is all youth and vulnerability and this particular young man makes his case eloquently.  Please visit the We are the 1 in 100 tumblr site to see many more photos and sentiments of those inside and outside of correctional facilities.  I invite you also to submit your own photo.

new animated feature for kids with incarcerated parents

beausoleilThe Oregonian printed this story yesterday: “Charles Manson Family associate creates cartoon for kids who ask, ‘Why is my parent behind bars?’”  Bobby Beausoleil, now 66 years old and a prisoner in the Oregon State Penitentiary, created a video meant to help answer tough questions for children of incarcerated parents. The video can be watched on Youtube and is being distributed by Parenting Inside Out, a program that  helps to educate incarcerated individuals on parenting skills.

In the video, the little boy’s father is in jail; and the boy asks a professor – the blue head in the photo – questions about “bad guys.”  The Oregonian offers the following excerpt from the video:

A kindly old character named Professor Proponderus offers answers.

“There are some people in the world who do bad things, son,” he says. “Sometimes a person will get scared or confused or get sick in their minds and forget who they are. People who lose their way sometimes forget what is right and wrong and why it is important to consider what is good for them and for other people. … When people forget this, they may do something that is bad.”

“Are they all in jail?” Jeeter asks.

“A lot of them are,” Professor Proponderus answers. “But not all of them.”

Jeeter eventually gets around to asking the eternal question: Is my dad bad?

“A great kid like you wouldn’t have a bad guy for a dad,” Professor Proponderus says. ” Most people are good, decent people at heart. Just because a person gets into trouble and goes to jail does not mean they are a bad person.”

Professor Proponderus tells Jeeter that people like his dad make mistakes and get “time outs” for them. The older and bigger you get, he tells young Jeeter, the bigger the consequences.

After watching the video, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.  I think this project is well-intended, but I’m not sure it quite reaches its goal(s).  I would be very interested to know how children and those with an incarcerated family member react to it.   Is this a useful tool for tackling these kinds of tough questions?

love and greetings from the community

IO card packets 2013Another of the projects my Inside-Out students took on this term was to create beautiful hand-decorated holiday cards for children visiting the Oregon State Penitentiary to take home with them, personalize, and mail back to their fathers, uncles, and other loved ones.  OSU (outside) student Lexie explains the rationale for these card packets:

These packets were made by the Inside-out class of fall 2013. These packets will be given to the children of inmates at OSP so that they may have a stamped, addressed, decorated card to send to a loved one with little to no barriers. It also included candy, extra writing paper and an extra envelope. Receiving things from family members on the outside means a lot to these guys and helps them to keep their heads up while working to improve their own lives and the lives of others for the duration of their sentences. Most of these examples of the cards are done by inmates and are beautiful. There are some that are not that great, haha, but have potential for the kids to make them great. These aren’t all of them, but a few we picked out to share.

It’s a small but important way for us to continue to support men in prison (including our own inside students) and the children who love them.

Oregon State University Inside-Out Class Project Aims to Educate Potential Employers

Slide1

We are the 1 in 100….Fall 2013

IMG_2135 memo_tumblr2013 marc_tumblr 2013

The We are the 1 in 100 tumblr site is an ongoing project of my Inside-Out classes, with submissions representing both the approximately  1 in 100 Americans behind bars and those affected by their incarceration.  The Fall 2013 inside and outside students have recently added some powerful new sentiments and images.  Check it out.

Halloween Rituals and Bonding with Incarcerated Fathers

TheGreatPumpkinCharlieBrownI was fortunate to host one of the more meaningful Halloween events of my life this year.  Building on the work I have been doing in one of our state youth correctional facilities over the past couple of years, I approached the administration with the idea of holding a Halloween party for the incarcerated fathers and their young children.  The fathers, themselves, are in their late teens and early twenties, so their children are all very young and at the age when Halloween is a major holiday.

We arranged to have the event on October 30th, so that it was an additional celebration and did not take the kids away from their own neighborhood celebration of Halloween.  Approximately seven young fathers participated, and family members brought their young children in their Halloween costumes into the facility to decorate pumpkins with their dads, decorate and eat cookies together, and to try to catch donuts and apples on strings (a more hygienic version of bobbing for apples). The culminating event was when the kids and their dads were able to trick or treat down the hallways of the institution’s school.  I had eight fabulous students from Oregon State University helping to run the event – the OSU volunteers were able to each go into a classroom and greet the little trick-or-treaters with kindness and candy.    After the little kids went home, we invited the full population of the facility to join us in the gym for pumpkin decorating, lively games, cookies, and candy.  I think it’s safe to say that the OSU volunteers and the young men in the facility all had a great time.

In the grand scheme of things, this event was a little thing that the youth correctional facility made possible.  All we had to do was suggest the idea; they then allowed us to make the plans, and then the administrators made it happen.  In the past 20 years (at least), they have never had an event like this.  For the kids and dads who participated, this was a big deal.  The dads got to be involved in an important childhood ritual, and they were able to make some unique memories with their kids.  I got to play photographer for much of the event, and I took some great family photos that both the kids and dads will be able to look back upon and enjoy for many years to come.

In my research and teaching, I think a lot about at-risk youth and children of incarcerated parents.  Small events like this one seem to me to be a small but important step to show that the community cares and wants what is best for these children.  It was a Halloween well spent.

A Father’s Grief and Grace in Newtown

from CNN (take 3 minutes to watch the video if you have a chance):

Robbie Parker has a message for the family of the gunman who killed his 6-year-old daughter and 19 of her school mates.

“I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that our family and our love and our support goes out to you as well,” Parker said, as he remembered his oldest girl, Emilie Alice.

Emilie died Friday at the hands of a gunman who opened fire at her elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history…

Fighting back tears with his voice cracking, Parker asked Saturday night that the tragedy “not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people.”

11-year-old attempts carjacking at gunpoint

In Oregon, an 11-year-old boy is being arraigned on allegations of first- and second-degree robbery and unlawful use of a firearm.  His accomplice was a 7-year-old boy.

The Oregonian reports:

Police said the 11-year-old was armed with a loaded .22-caliber derringer and threatened Amy Garrett, 22, in her pickup while she was parked at Freedom Foursquare Church about noon Saturday. Garrett said the 11-year-old and a 7-year-old boy, carrying a backpack with bullets, demanded her pickup, then money and her phone.

The boy’s father was charged with a relatively new law that makes it a crime to leave a gun unsecured and within reach of a child.  The father is a convicted felon, and he has had two child neglect and abuse complaints filed against him in the last year.  The 11-year-old boy and his two younger siblings were taken into protective custody.

A neighbor claimed to have called police several times over the past 18 months with complaints about vandalism and trespassing involving the then 10-year-old boy.  The young age of the attempted carjacker and his relatively long history of contact with police brings to mind the case of Nathaniel Abraham; Abraham was given a real opportunity when he was sentenced as a juvenile; unfortunately, he seems to be struggling in prison as an adult.

But back to the current situation with an 11-year-old boy facing first- and second-degree robbery and weapons charges.   What a strange and sad case!  What in the world would an 11-year-old do if his victim had surrendered her vehicle?  Would he have attempted to drive it off?  To where and to what end? And, what are the circumstances of his 7-year-old accomplice?  The boys are not related and police have not take action against the 7-year-old.

What do you think should be done in this case?  What would be an appropriate response?

Edit, Dec. 13: here is a follow up to this story.

Inspiration from within Prison

The word cloud above represents how my 2012 Inside-Out students from Oregon State University and the Oregon State Penitentiary felt about their experience in my class.   As you may know, the larger the word is in the cloud, the more times it was mentioned by participants.  I had each student try to capture the essence of the experience in three words and this is what they came up with.  “Inspiring” was by far the most-used word to describe our class.  Wouldn’t it be great if all college classes earned such a positive response?

This quarter’s students also added more posts to our We Are the 1 in 100 tumblr site, offering perspectives on incarceration and communities from both inside and outside of prison.  For the first time, we’ve got photos taken inside the prison on the site; while no individuals are identified in these posts, I think it adds a little something.  Check it out and feel free to add you own submissions.