Voices from the Inside is a series of letters and videos from incarcerated men and women in Oregon's prisons. In July 2020 a message was sent to the AICs in our programs, asking for their thoughts on prison labor and OCE programs. We asked for respectful, honest opinions about the benefits of OCE programs and suggestions for improvement. We are sharing this with the public as a way to allow for the people who participate in our programs to have a voice and be heard by Oregonians and beyond.
We have received over 60 letters and continue to see them come in. The responses have been fairly well-rounded with a range of positive, negative, and neutral tones. We want to share with you a summary on the feedback we received and update you on our efforts moving forward. What they have to say in the following videos and letters is real and in their own words. We will continue to add to both Hear My Voice and In My Own Words over the coming weeks and months both here and on our social media pages.
The general concerns—
Cost of canteen and services provided to AICs with no increase in PRAS since its inception.
State mandates and laws make it “slave labor” because they require AICs to work.
Oregon Measures 11 and 17 passing together support the prison industrial complex and support systemic racism.
Inequity between OCE certifications and real world standards.
Deductions/withholdings from pay, PIECP.
OCE management communication to AICs on operational changes and updates.
Ideas, suggestions, and recommendations—
OCE/ODOC to lobby for prison reforms.
Change the perception of what OCE jobs take away from the economy.
Engage in town hall/workgroup discussions with AICs.
Focus efforts on reintegration, provide recommendation letters.
Provide more program opportunities (only 10% of the AIC population is in an OCE program).
Improve education and job training (cross training).
Increase in pay and how it should be allocated.
Vacation days, 401k, sick days.
Child support, restitution.
Positive impacts of our programs—
Preface – Several of the letters acknowledge never having/very little experience in a real job, and the decision/choice to change or realization of the opportunity and benefits OCE programs provide.
Grateful/Thankful for the value and opportunity OCE jobs provide.
Better conditions in comparison to other states.
OCE programs provide purpose, a sense of normalcy, humanity in an otherwise demeaning environment.
Professional, respectful work environment where staff promote our success and development, and demonstrate understanding.
Increased pride and self-esteem.
Ability to contribute to society, give back to the community, and feel a connection to something outside of the walls.
Provides real work experiences and a means to develop/maintain skills.
Specific skills identified – communication, computer, leadership, problem solving, social skills, and teambuilding.
OCE experiences open new opportunities post prison, feel prepared for their future.
Certifications, reviews, and training.
Understanding of what it means to have a work ethic.
Attribute their OCE experience as the reason they will not return to prison.
OCE and DOC are working with Senator Merkley’s office on his efforts to amend article 13 of the US Constitution to remove “except as punishment for a crime” from the language.
OCE has partnered with Chemeketa Community College to review certification programming. The end goal is to provide transferrable certification and college education online.
We have started meeting with some AIC groups and linked with community organizations they are working with. OASIS (Oregonians Against Slavery and Involuntary Servitude) and the Coalition for Racial Economic Justice.
In support of re-entry efforts, OCE is working on a Guide to Personal Success (GPS). A series of workbooks designed to help AICs navigate their time, serve as a resource for loved ones, and help plan for release back to the communities.
OCE is improving education and job training (cross training), referenced above, in the partnership with CCC.
OCE’s Advisory Council is evaluating M17 and reviewing the Team Goal Awards, and bonus incentives AICs can earn through OCE under Oregon Revised Statutes. Increases in awards must be balanced in OCE’s costing methods for the products and services we provide to Oregonians.
An update to the Administration to AIC Incentives policy was just processed and paid time off (vacation days) were extended to all programs.
Offender Services will be developing a communication method to better update AICs on our efforts and projects.
OCE programs are voluntary, not assigned.
PIECP deductions are guided by federal law under 18 U.S.C. 1871(c)
OCE does provide a work history and summary of accomplishments.
OCE is always looking to expand programming. However, we are limited to the space provided in the institutions. We are also self-sustaining, receiving no general fund (tax) dollars, our revenues are reinvested into programs.
SB844 allows 10% of wages to be deducted for court ordered obligations (such as restitution, criminal fines and fees, and civil judgments). If you don’t owe any of these, DOC will not collect the 10%.
The Voices from the Inside series prompted a significant response from OCE. One goal in this process is to communicate regularly with the AICs, especially those in our programs, providing answers to their questions and information about what we are working on to positively affect their futures. In this section you will find the newsletter series and other communications that have been shared with AICs.
Hear My Voice - Videos from the Inside
The Hear My Voice video series is OCE's response to the desire of the men and women in our programs to have a platform to speak to the community. These videos were made to allow them to express their thoughts by speaking from the heart. This series offers a chance for those wishing to personalize themselves, to let the public see they are people who prefer to speak for themselves. They are aware of the societal climate pushing for changes and they are not in complete agreement. Sometimes a letter is not enough; it is easier to have a conversation, but if they did write one it will be included with the video.
In My Own Words - Letters from the Inside
The In My Own Words letter series is another of OCE's responses to the desire of the men and women in our programs to have a platform to speak to the community. The letters are an expression of their gratitude, frustrations, appreciation, and more, in their own writing. They are unedited for content, only their last names removed. These men and women say what is on their mind - good, bad, or otherwise. They, too, are aware of the societal climate pushing for changes that they may not agree with, and we would like for you to have an opportunity to see what they have to say - in their own words.