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Teach Us Life Skills So We Can Succeed After Release

By Tim Hinkhouse

December 1, 2015

Hello there readers. I wanted to ask you something: Do you know why a chicken coop has two doors? If it had four, it would be a chicken sedan! This type of humor makes you think outside the box, right? Think about it; this also has real life applications. Let me explain myself.

I've been in prison for such a long time that I have built a routine and tend to keep to myself. Now, most folks who have done a long time in prison become rigid in their routines and won't accept new things or programs to expand their thinking. This been my observation over the years. This is a comfortable yet boring way to do time. I get why people get so ingrained in routines that they aren't open to new things. Prison doesn't have to be a bad experience if you don't want it to be. Keep in mind I'm only talking about my life in here.

When I came to this rural institution I learned that this is the "blackhole" of all prisons in Oregon. There was literally nothing to do and no reason to stay out of trouble. No clubs, no programs, just boredom, which is what some people in society want to see for those of us in prison. That makes no sense to me. Most people in prison will one day return to society, so why not teach them new life skills and give them a reason upon release to stay out of trouble? When I was at the penitentiary in the mid 1990s, going to cosmetology school to become a barber, close to your release date the instructor would go to the area where you'd parole and get you employment at a salon after you got your license. What ever happened to people like her who genuinely wanted to see people succeed upon release?

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As far as I am concerned, prison is a huge industry in America. Here is my logic on incarceration. The prison warden has friends who are administrators, correctional officers and in various other positions. Now let's say that 40% of the inmates are rehabilitated and never come back and the numbers coming into prisons are cut back to 10% new admits. My calculation is that the prison will be 70% full. Since his prison is not at capacity anymore, and 40% of the inmates he has locked up will be rehabilitated, it will further empty the prisons. He has no reason to keep all these people working for him if there isn't the volume of prisoners he once had incarcerated. Lots of his friends will lose their jobs now because rehabilitation was introduced into a system that employed thousands of people. Which is the bigger tragedy? Keeping all those people locked up or all those people losing their jobs in the prison industry? I'm obviously biased. People can find other jobs, but the kids of incarcerated parents can't find another mom or dad to raise them.

The part about thinking outside the box would be for those in free society to volunteer their time to change the life of those of us in prisons across the country. For example, I have been participating in what is called "Group Dialog," which is staffed by people who drive over three hours to be here with us and teach us the skills that I would not have learned otherwise. To see what I'm talking about, check out openheartsopenminds.net.

We have volunteers who are college professors, professional business people, etc. There are actual play directors who are helping us with our upcoming play, which is Hamlet. Imagine inmates with no acting background doing Shakespeare! I am playing the part of Laertes, which is out of my comfort zone standing in front of a room full of inmates and people from society watching me do something I'm trying. I am a musician and I can play drums on a stage all day for hundreds of people, but this Shakespeare thing is out of the box for me. Last year I did The Winter's Tale and I wasn't booed off the stage or told I was bad. Quite the opposite, I was given positive reinforcement, which encouraged me to do it again this year. Thank you volunteers!

I want to encourage you reading this to please consider doing some volunteer work to help someone improve their life so they won't come back to a prison because they didn't have the skills to deal with life.

Until next time.
Stay healthy. Stay safe.

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Tim Hinkhouse

Tim Hinkhouse

I have been HIV-positive for over 25 years and have been in prison in Oregon for almost as long because of my health status and non-disclosure. I'll talk to you about the issues faced by a person in my position along with the discrimination and stigmas attached to it behind these prison walls. I'll tell you about the strength and courage I found inside myself to NOT hang up and let this illness or my circumstances finish me off.

Tim Hinkhouse #7632447
Two Rivers Correctional Inst.
82911 Beach Access Rd.
Umatilla, OR 97882

You can also email me at hi.timothy7019
@gmail.com
.


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