The Family Preservation Project
This week on Sprouts, Karen James interviews Jessica Katz and Nova Sweet. Katz is the director of the Family Preservation Project (FPP) at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon, and Sweet is a former participant of the program. The FPP is part of the YWCA of Greater Portland, and uses a holistic and family-centered approach to help incarcerated women rehabilitate, form connections with their families, and prepare for lives after incarceration. However, in 2014, the Oregon Department of Corrections eliminated the budget for the FPP, thus discontinuing the program. Incarcerated women like Nova Sweet then worked to restore funding through a letter writing campaign.
Discovering the Story
Karen James is the producer and co-host of Prison Pipeline. The story caught her attention in 2011, when she first joined Prison Pipeline, and started conducting interviews of those going through the program. She also interviewed the mothers when they came out of prison and saw the opportunity for a follow up when it was de-funded.
“I don’t know how many prisons allow children to enter the prison. This is a very unique program here in Oregon that actually helps reconnect children, it’s not only visiting. They extend the program’s support to the families on the outside. It helps women work through their issues.”
Karen notes the difficult road that parents go through both during and after incarcerations. They lose that connection with their children, making it harder to reintegrate into the family on top of readjusting to everything else. Shes notes Jessica Katz’s ability to step back into her mother role after going through the FPP.
“It’s just not conducive for children to go through the waiting room, treatment, the clanging doors…it’s not an intimate situation. [The FPP] is more intimate. They get to play with their kids, have special time [and] alone time. It’s not doors clanging and sirens going off.”
On June 22nd, Governor Kate Brown made Oregon the first state to adopt a Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents. SB241 received unanimous support from both the House and the Senate. It guarantees a series of rights that protect children from additional trauma to their relationship with their parent. The existence of this law was new to Karen and came away very impressed. “…if you read some of those rights, they’re even talking about a physical connection with the incarcerated parents. This doesn’t happen in prisons [everywhere else] other than a brief hug or tough. That’s huge! I think it’s going to open a lot of doors.”
“The collateral consequences of sentencing these women to these long sentences. They’re just not necessary and they don’t work.”
Prison Pipeline, KBOO
Karen has been a long time listener of KBOO. She was herself a guest on Prison Pipeline, when a loved one with mental illness became incarcerated. Having always been involved with social justice and environmental issues, she became more involved with social justice issues because of this experience. When the host left the area, she worked with KBOO to make Prison Pipeline a collective. “Each [host] brings their own perspective and ideas. I’m very concerned with incarcerating people with mental illness and mandatory minimum sentences. I’m always looking for stories on those issues. It’s been quite successful.”
Prison Pipeline is a half-hour weekly program that airs every Monday at 6:30 PM Pacific on KBOO 90.7 FM in Portland, Oregon. The show is dedicated to educating the public about the Oregon criminal justice system. Their goal is to present a unique understanding of the criminal justice system, address the root causes of crime, and challenge the status quo.
KBOO will also be celebrating 50 years in 2018. “Community radio, in this age, from passionate people who know the issues, is so crucial.” Anyone in the area who has programming ideas or just wants to volunteer can walk in. “Anyone can come in and bring a proposal for your program and learn everything you need to know about audio production at the station. It’s a wonderful community radio station [with] a lot of history.”
“Passionate people make this happen!”
Sprouts: Radio from the Grassroots
Sprouts is a weekly program that features local radio production and stories from radio stations and local media groups around the world. It is produced in collaboration with community radio stations and independent producers across the country. The program is coordinated and distributed by Pacifica Radio and offered free of charge to all radio stations. For information, or if you would like to feature your work on Sprouts, contact Ursula Ruedenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.