Here’s a short and, I think, uplifting story about some of the good work coming out of prisons. Inmates in the Oregon State Penitentiary just donated $1000 to HOME Youth and Resource Center, a day shelter and drop-in center for homeless and at-risk youth in Salem. That’s $1000 directly from inmates’ personal funds, where an average inmate may make $50 per month working in the prison.
Nearly a year ago, my Inside-Out class at the penitentiary chose to work as a group to sponsor a hygiene drive for HOME, in hopes of helping homeless teens and ultimately keeping them out of prison. We were all amazed at the generosity of the inmate population as they donated brand new bottles of shampoo, toothbrushes, deodorant, razors, and socks from their own scarce supply. As I wrote about in an earlier post, we were able to deliver more than a dozen boxes of hygiene supplies and OSU tee-shirts to the shelter. It was a great day.
The Statesman-Journal published an editorial that described our project like this:
Inderbitzin also challenged the 31 participants to “develop a small-scale, doable prevention project that we could put into action before the quarter was over…They came through in a big way,” she said. “There are a number of aspects to their project, but their main focus was to help homeless teenagers in the Salem area.”
OSU students updated a resource guide for homeless teens. These “outside” students also collected new hygiene products from inmates, prison staff members and even the OSU football team. The “inside” students collected a dozen boxes of products from the inmates and prison staffers. The “outside” students delivered the items to a Salem outreach program lastweekend.
Reflecting on the project, one “inside” student said: “Our group took this challenge to heart, and although not every individual agreed on the focus, every individual gave it their best effort. I watched the effect it had, within our class and in the prison, and I’m not ashamed to admit I had misty eyes when I saw the amount of donated goods that poured in from the prisoners. With only 700 jobs — and most with a monthly salary of $50 — these men gave a big chunk of their pay to kids they don’t even know.”
I’m glad to see the guys in OSP kept working all year to help the homeless kids in Salem. It’s nice to be reminded that some good really can come out of prison.
(photo is an actual picture of the HOME center, where youth proclaim in the window that “HOME Rocks”)