Monday, July 25, 2011

(Day 43) Oregon DOC Religious Services Administration...

This morning I visited the Dome, home to the Department of Correction for the State of Oregon.  I was wondering where to park my bike and I saw only one other bike in the area: parked in an area marked off with orange cones.  I headed over there and along the way asked a guy if it was okay to park there.  He informed me "that green bike is there everyday so shouldn't be any issue... but don't quote me!"  As I was taking off my gear the owner of the green bike came along and we had a great chat.  Ron Leader (I think I have that right) is with the Investigations Branch, and when I told him where I was from and what I was doing we launched into a deep discussion about the terribly wrong direction Canada was heading.  It was refreshing to hear someone from the Operational side of the house acknowledge that locking people up doesn't solve much!

The plan for today was to meet with three members of the Oregon Department of Corrections Religious Services Administration Team.  Gary Sims (second from the left) is the Administrator and has been in the job for a year, coming to this post from Ohio.  Dennis Holms (far right) is the Assistant Administrator and has been in Oregon for 9 years (I think I have that right) coming to Oregon from Idaho.  Jeff (between Gary and Dennis) is known as Mr. Research and is responsible for tracking all of the information that is submitted by Chaplains for administrative and research purposes (more about that later).

After a tour of the "Dome", a beautiful old building that appears to be well maintained... The Dome was built originally as Oregon State Hospital's in 1912.  It was interesting to note that this building portrayed the mental hospital in the 1975 Jack Nicholson film adaptation of Ken Kesey's 1962 novel,  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

I found out later how confusing the layout is.  I had forgotten some material on the upper floor and the Receptionist allowed me to go up on my own to find it.  But for the grace of the Divine I would still be wandering the hallways and up and down the circular stairways!

Jeff and Dennis and I had the morning to speak of some of their practices in tracking the involvement of inmates in the various programs at the 14 prisons in the state and the administration/management of Chaplaincy services.

Jeff is responsible in part for all of the statistics generated and has a hand I am sure, in providing information for Population Forecasts and preparing data for the Research Branch.  I spent quite some time talking with Jeff as I am interested in the kind of data they are generating for those who analyze the effectiveness of chaplaincy.  I am looking forward to conversations with Chaplains on the ground to see how much work it is to generate such data.  It would be fair to say that Jeff was somewhat overwhelmed by the size of "Ted's Tool" the nickname we chaplains have given the Statistical Reporting Tool we have to complete each month in our settings.

With the morning done, we headed off to a restaurant for lunch where Gary Sims met us.  I forget the name of the restaurant.  The price could not be beat.  $4.95 for all you could eat soup and salad bar and taco bar.

Jeff bought me my lunch and the conversations continued.  We spoke of the uniqueness of each chaplaincy setting and the uniqueness of the gifts each chaplain brings to the table.  They were intrigued that as a Chaplain in a Federal system that I was not a Federal employee.  Jeff asked as very pointed question: "Does you faith community ever have any issue with some of the things you are called to do as a result of your role as a Chaplain?"  I explained that some do, but that I have no run up against this yet.

The conversation moved to some of the programs offered across the state, the size of the inmate population, the challenges of ministering to various populations and the financial challenges currently facing many departments within government.

One important thing I learned was that I could not wear blue jeans or a blue shirt to my visit to Oregon State Penitentiary tomorrow.  Anything but blue.  Like the inmates in Canada, this is standard inmate issue!

Arriving back at the Dome, Gary and his staff headed to a staff meeting and I went shopping.  In addition to buying some $18 khaki pants I bought a snack:  pop-tarts!!  I have to say, they suck!  Kind of doughy and not as much filling!  The ones in Canada are much better!  Make sure you have some for me when I get home Zack!!

Tomorrow its off to the Pen...  Oregon State that is!


Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP) was established in 1866, and until 1959 was Oregon’s only prison. OSP is surrounded by a 25-foot-high wall with 10 towers and houses death row inmates covering a total  of 195 acres.  The walled perimeter contains 22 acres.  The complex has a budgeted capacity of  2,356 and there are three chaplains on staff.

I must confess, having shared the conversations I have today I am even more discouraged by the action that our present Conservative government is taking.  How many of you read the Globe and Mail article on the 21st of July?  Here is a link.  Mr. Harper really does need to give his head a shake.  So should Rob Nicholson.  I mean come on?  Are these the words of an intelligent person responding to a question of fact?
“Unlike the Opposition, we do not use statistics as an excuse not to get tough on criminals. As far as our Government is concerned, one victim of crime is still one too many,” Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said in an e-mail Thursday evening.on the 21st Sunday.  (Globe and Mail)
If only more people would think this issue through, there is a chance that they might come to a similar conclusion as Jeffery Simpson.  California, Oregon and countless other states and countries have tried the "get tough its a deterrent" experiment.  It doesn't work.  Never has.  Never will.  Only thing it will do is line the pockets of the corporations who are lining up in Canada to pour cement, and continue drive down many of those who are already driven down and have no self-worth.

If one follows Mr. Nicholson's logic and "one victim of crime is still one too many" then let us take the billions we would spend on bricks and mortar and bars and control panels and invest it in communities - so that those who are disenfranchised may be encouraged, that those who are downcast may be lifted up and supported.  Then and only then, will the
voices at the margins get heard and the circle of compassion widens.  Souls feeling their worth, refusing to forget that we belong to each other.  No bullet can pierce this.  The vision still has its time, and yes, it presses on to fulfillment.  It will not disappoint.  And yet, if it delays, surely we can wait for it. (Last paragraph of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, Gregory Boyle)

...on the Sabbath Road...

PS... check this out!  Some wise people in Moncton are listening to wisdom!  W.E. Belliveau, PM's Tough on Crime Fantasy!!

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