News Release from: Oregon Dept. of Corrections
Posted: December 20th, 2012 3:48 PM
By Mark Nooth
Superintendent, Snake River Correctional Institution
Inmates at Oregon's largest prison give back at Christmastime
SRCI staff delivering stockings to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Inmates working on the stocking project SRCI minimum holiday senior lunch
One might wonder what the holidays are like inside Oregon's largest prison - perhaps whether the men in custody have a Christmas tree or celebrate at all. To quell this curiosity, I can tell you the halls are not decked, and aside from the calendar, you wouldn't know the holiday season was here at all, except for one small thing: the holiday spirit, which at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI) is actually a big thing.
The holiday season is one of the best times during the year when we see the progress we have made with the men in our custody. SRCI houses more than 3,000 men, the majority of whom have a history of criminal thinking and have spent much of their lives not necessarily thinking they would or could make a positive difference. To cement that thinking error, they have generally made no effort to prove any different.
The staff at SRCI - in all sections, ranks, and roles - work hard every day to change that thinking, and the true measure of progress is in the actions of our inmate population. We may not notice these changes every day, but during the holidays we truly see the impact staff are making.
For the past three years, men in the medium facility have participated in a holiday project to provide stockings to children. The men in custody raise all the funds, sew the stockings, and place a stuffed animal in each one. Staff then take the stockings to local area agencies - this year to the Department of Human Services and Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, along with a shipment to children in Connecticut who were affected by the recent tragedy. All 200 of the stockings will undoubtedly put a smile on a child's face during the holidays.
But, the holiday season is for all ages, and the men in custody work on a special project for senior members of our surrounding communities as well. On Dec. 13, we held our fourth and largest annual holiday senior luncheon, hosted by the men at the SRCI minimum facility. They raised money throughout the year to cover the cost of the lunch, which provided 148 free meals to senior citizens. The annual event is held at the minimum facility and topped off with carols sang by a choir made up of staff and men in custody. This truly is a large group effort and the inmates really glean a sense of what service means when they see the guests' appreciation.
One might wonder why we stress to adults in custody the importance of giving back to the community. As SRCI's Assistant Superintendent Jason Bell said, "When individuals commit crimes they create victims. Part of rehabilitation is realizing the damage you have done to society and attempting to make it right."
Lieutenant Lance Albert oversees the minimum facility and is involved in helping the men plan and host the luncheon. He added, "It's important to have the men interact in a positive way with the senior members of our community - to serve them and care for them. The opportunity to give back allows them to think beyond their own needs."
For me, it's great to see our men in custody soak up these lessons and make progress in their journey back to society. I am grateful to have such high-caliber staff who really take the time to make sure the men are learning from their experiences at SRCI and that they are not just a number, but rather a person who is capable of positive change when given the opportunity and guidance.
We take to heart the fact that Oregonians have entrusted us with the supervision of a large portion of the state's offenders. In some states it's simply enough to house offenders, but in Oregon our approach is different. We are passionate about what we do - about making a difference in the lives of adults in custody by offering opportunities for rehabilitation - because ultimately, the majority of them will release, and we know that meaningful work, treatment, education, and connections to the community contributes to the success of offenders upon release. Ultimately, our goal is to prevent future criminal activity and victimization.
Contact Info: Cathleen Shroyer, SRCI PIO
(971) 600-6131 - cell