The Oregon Think Tank, held at the Oregon State Penitentiary, is in its formative phase. We currently consist of fifteen inside students; five instructors from Oregon State University, Chemeketa Community College, and the University of Oregon; Melissa Crabbe (Assistant National Director) and two outside alumni from the University of Oregon. We are working through forming our unique identity here in the West, and are working through logistical limitations to build a more robust group of outside members.
Although we're still a new group, we've already developed a strong sense of group unity, and have discussed several new projects we'd like to undertake in the area of educational support for the prisons in Salem, Oregon.
Two meetings ago, we discussed the article "Ending the Culture of Street Crime," which was co-authored by the Lifers group at Graterford Prison. This is particularly meaningful as the authors are largely Inside-Out alumni in Pennsylvania, and we were able to interact as an alumni group in Oregon, discussing the perspectives of crime and justice in a formal, academic way. The article has a lot to say about the potential for mentoring and cultural transformation originating within prisons to affect change on the outside. Here in Oregon, we had a lot to say about this article: how recognizable some issues were, and how there are regional differences clear in patterns of crime and justice between East and West coasts.
Many Inside-Out classes use this article to jump-start discussions of crime and justice, but for some of us this was a first read. I was truly inspired by the model for high-quality research and writing, as well as the commitment this indicated to scholarship and justice work for the Graterford group.
I encourage everyone to read the article, published by The Prison Journal, and found here: "Ending the Culture of Street Crime."
Have other alumni read this article in their classes? I would be very interested in other opinions of this article, whether based on regional differences or other perspectives in criminal justice reform.
And, above all, I am anxious to hear more about what this means about bridges between the inside and outside: whether that be in scholarship, mentorship, discussion, publishing, or efforts at social change.