Getting Free: Leading Workshops for Incarcerated Youth
February 7, 2014
by Eileen Chavez, Enlace Intern
On January 26, Enlace led a workshop for youth held at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility focusing on dissecting the prison system, private prison industry, and resistance. The MacLaren Facility, located roughly a half an hour south of Portland in Woodburn, serves young men from in and around the larger Oregon community ranging in ages from 13 to 25.
During the workshop, participants and leaders collaborated to build a space for honest, humanizing sharing of personal experience about the prison industrial complex. Initially all participants agreed on community expectations including having a ground level of mutual respect and critical awareness of everyone’s expectations and values. Next, the men shared stories of what kinds of community conditions are in place that influence and increase the likelihood of ending up in prison, and pressures/conditions in place during and after prison. Many circumstances were brought up including poor living conditions, a lack community support and role models for youth, negative perceptions in society and a biased laws that target certain communities. One young man shared the harsh realities of having family members that have been targeted by the prison industrial complex and dealing with parents who can’t provide for their families outside bars, putting pressure on their loved ones, and the inability of families to visit if they have been transferred to out of state prisons. He went on to state that he has realized while he is gone, he knows his loved ones may have to put so much mental energy into supporting him that they found they had to put a hold on their own goals or progress. After the initial portion of the workshop, it became more and more clear how communities are hurting from the incarceration of our loved ones and how we are all intimately connected around these issues.
In the second portion of the workshop, the attention was directed towards private prisons as an industry bent on profits and human misery. Participants took a closer look at how politicians, lobbyists, community members, stockholders, schools and even cities are all implicated in the growth of these industries. Lastly, the workshop shifted to discussing resistance efforts fighting back to cut ties between the web of support for private prisons.