OCE STORIES

“I wanted to challenge myself to design a whole environment, as opposed to one single piece of furniture as I have done in the past. I was also excited to have the opportunity to work on a project that has the potential to directly affect students at the UO.”

Cara Murray - Product Design Senior

It’s about the journey…

Have you ever wondered what corrections industries is all about? Does what you know come only from movies and television shows? Well, here’s an inside look at the stories that shape what we really do, what drives us to make a difference. We want to offer you an opportunity to see our focus through a different lens – the lives that are changed, the positive effects of the important work we do here every day, and the ties and relationships we help to create to truly enhance the lives of Oregonians in our communities, in our schools, and in our prison system.

A JOINT VENTURE

The beginning of 2017 marked the start of a new joint venture for Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE) and the University of Oregon (UO). Although OCE had been designing and producing quality furnishings for Oregon’s schools systems and other Oregon state agencies for years, OCE wanted to take a look at updating the designs of some of its current residence hall furnishings. Graduate students and faculty at the University of Oregon Product Design Department within the School of Art and Design agreed to participate in OCE’s idea to design new furnishings that meet the current needs of life in dormitory housing. This design studio project was a joint venture between OCE and UO students collaborating to design a modern, cohesive and functional look that could stand up to the heavy use of college/school life. The project also introduced students to OCE, one of the many reentry preparation efforts by Oregon Department of Corrections. Here is our journey together.  Click the PDF icon to view the entire story!

UO Associate Professor John Arndt and the Product Design students take advantage of the opportunity to discuss Computer Aided Drafting and Design with adults in custody.

UO Product Design Studio students and faculty.

An expert in furniture fabrication, this AIC prepares a subassembly for the finish room.

Fresh off the line, the reimagined residence hall furniture has become a reality. Each piece is designed with accessible floor space for storage and the feeling of a larger room. The bed shown is the ICFF model, lowered to twenty inches.

Showcasing Success - Diana Bunch

“Make sure you don’t repeat your mistake or let anyone else make the same mistake. Never give up!”

Before prison, Diana had what most would call a successful life, but when her stepdad passed away right after she finished high school, she started using alcohol as a coping mechanism. The behavior continued during college and her career, eventually spiraling into excessive drinking and other reckless behaviors. Her choices resulted in a prison sentence from a vehicular accident which injured a person. She had effectively eliminated everything she had going for her at the time, and, for the first two years of her incarceration, she couldn’t accept that incarceration was actually the best thing that could have happened to her at the time.

 

Eventually, Diana interviewed for the OCE Document Scanning program. For the first few months, she was quiet and bitter. Then she met another participant who became a great friend and mentor. With the help of her new friend and the OCE staff, Diana quit hating life and began to see OCE as a mental escape from prison life. She noticed correctional officers treating her differently. Her friend said, “If you can make it in OCE, you earn more respect.” Diana’s sense of self-worth began to improve. In her off time, she participated in the DOC program Victim Offender Education Group (VOEG). It was an intense six-month program during which she finally recognized the thinking patterns which led her to prison, and she vowed to change.

 

Diana transferred to the DOC Hair Design program, surprised to discover she enjoyed the work. Her artistic side came forth, and the soft skills she learned with OCE became customer service skills. After completing the two-year Hair Design program and returning to the OCE Scanning program for one year, she transferred to the minimum facility for six months of transition programming. During that time, staff from a local Perfect Look Hair Salon came to the facility and interviewed Diana. All her hard work over the previous six years paid off: she had a job the day she released. Now the third top revenue producer at the salon, she recently accepted an offer of an additional part-time job from the manager of the clothing store next door who appreciated Diana’s customer service skills and general presence.

 

Diana credits her success after release to four things: her family support during and after her incarceration; the skills and self-worth she developed in DOC and OCE programs; the support of the DOC and OCE staff; and the support of her current coworkers who know her story and encourage her to continue to succeed. What is Diana’s definition of success? “Success is stopping at any moment of the day and possessing a great amount of pride, knowing I am accomplishing things, being happy, and living each day better than the one before.” What advice does she have to those still in custody? “Know that ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it. Ask yourself what you can do to make a difference. Make sure you don’t repeat your mistake or let anyone else make the same mistake. Never give up!”

Showcasing Success - Joe Narkin

“Success is being the most helpful person you can be to humanity and the people in your life”

He grew up in a home where one parent was abusive and the other the epitome of love. He’s not sure why he chose to follow one over the other. His downward spiral of self-hatred culminated in a failed relationship, a bank robbery, and an attempted suicide-by cop. The police officer realized the truth of the situation: Joe was crying out for help, even though he didn’t realize it at the time. Joe says it was the first time he became aware of what he called “the beauty of humanity.”

 

Joe struggled the first two years of his prison sentence, trying to figure out who he was now that his living arrangements had drastically changed. Learning meditation techniques during a period spent in segregation, Joe finally found the peace he needed and made the life-altering decision never to hurt another human being again. His new found peace led to better behavior in prison. Better behavior led to a unique training opportunity: the OCE Contact Center. In this program, he experienced a positive work environment, learned to work as part of a team, found self-expression, and developed the skills necessary to interact with the public in a professional manner. He participated in the program for five years, missing only one day due to illness.

 

The manager of the customer Joe's team was assigned to come into the prison often and treated everyone as if they were valued employees. As Joe’s s kills expanded into marketing, the manager offered Joe a job to step into the moment he released from custody.

 

Continually exceeding expectations, Joe now lives on the east coast, is the Director of Business Development, and is on the path to become Vice-President of Operations. He learned sign language while in prison and continues to volunteer in his local community, signing for those in hospitals and for deaf children who want to talk to Santa. Joe enjoys helping his company prosper and employees succeed both personally and professionally. But that is not the only way he defines success. “Success is being the most helpful person you can be to humanity and the people in your life, being able to sleep at night without a knot in your stomach, and living a more genuine existence. It’s being a better son, good husband, and good father.” For Joe, success is being a piece of the beauty of humanity.

From left: Joe Narkin and his manager Wil Patterson

Showcasing Success - Daniel Freeman

Daniel advises all his children to press through issues instead of giving up– just like he did to repair their relationships.

Daniel Freeman’s work history before incarceration was reforestation, gathering forest products, or any other job where he thought he didn’t have to show up on time or could be his own boss. He liked it because he could keep drinking and using drugs. When he entered DOC custody, it was his 53rd arrest cycle. He had no self-esteem or way to make amends to his kids as he had lost custody of and had no contact with them. While at his first DOC housing assignment in a medium facility, he participated in several DOC programs where he learned the only true way to make amends was to change his behavior.

 

Daniel's next step was to find a work assignment. The OCE Metal Shop took a chance on him. He suddenly felt meaningful – productive – accountable. He started at the entry level as a grinder, then promoted to a welder with increasingly tougher projects. The job created structure and gave purpose to his life. He found he liked getting out of the mindset of general prison life. He completed OCE certification and then the DOC Work-based Education Automotive program, resulting in an associate’s degree. He transferred to a minimum custody facility for a 6-month intensive treatment program in a dorm atmosphere. He found it difficult because he couldn’t isolate himself anymore, but he didn’t give up. When he released, he attended the local community college, studying how to start a successful business. Life after incarceration has not been easy. However, it is not without rewards.

 

After many attempts, he qualified for tribal housing and moved from a trailer parked on someone’s property into a one bedroom apartment. He reconnected with his children who are all supportive of the changes he has made. They are building Daniel’s business on property belonging to one of his sons. He received a conditional use permit and building permits to build the final structure needed: a 36x48 shop with 3 bays for automotive/welding jobs using the skills he learned in the OCE and DOC programs. He bought a 90 amp welder. He received a lift and 80 gallon compressor through a grant. A Grand Ronde tribal member, he now has a contract with his tribe’s 477 program – the tribe will pay him to fix qualifying tribal members’ vehicles. Transition has been the biggest struggle, but he sees himself as being successful.

 

He worked with Indian Child Welfare and the Department of Human Services to reconnect with his youngest son (15), who, at first, didn’t want anything to do with his dad. Daniel didn’t give up and insisted on seeing his son every week. It paid off. Now they talk frequently, and Daniel advises all his children to press through issues instead of giving up – just like he did to repair their relationships.

 

Daniel has never violated his parole. In fact, his Parole Officer has been a huge support. In addition, Daniel’s vocational rehabilitation counselor has a similar conviction history and has supported Daniel throughout this process. Initially, Daniel had a hard time asking for assistance as he didn’t want to appear he was struggling. But he has found people are there the moment he asks for help.