Ethics, Æsthetics, Ecology, Education

Over These Prison Walls

Over These Prison Walls

In 2017, OICR will revitalize “Over These Prison Walls,” the award-winning art-and-justice project begun in Portland in 2008, at the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Center and the recipient of the City of Portland’s top commendation for citizen-inspired programs.  Bringing together OICR faculty, students, and associates with the young men and women of the center, the program begins with oral histories, with storytelling and poetry; moves slowly into reading and writing, drawing and painting; and culminates with a collective project in which participants combine word and image in the form of zines, filled with their own stories, drawings, poems, recollections, and dreams, in the process learning everything from writing, thinking, and conceptualizing to layout, printing, and distribution.  “Over These Prison Walls” is especially important not only because of the growing body of research on the humanizing power of the humanities and the profundity and efficacy of arts-based initiatives but also, more particularly, because of Oregon’s sad statistic as the state with the second highest average for juvenile incarceration in the nation at 281 per every 100,000.  (The average reading and writing level for incarcerated youth nationwide hovers around fourth grade, with a recidivism rate close to seventy percent for those within three years of release and nearly eighty percent for those within five years of release, with studies showing that longer sentences do not reduce recidivism but in fact may contribute to increases.  If literacy skills are raised to tenth-grade levels, recidivism drops to around thirty percent, no matter the release time.)