Photography and photojournalism in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

There is life after prison

I’ve been posting plenty of beautiful scenery in recent weeks, thanks to the Columbia River Gorge. But south of Portland, in the northern Willamette Valley, the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility houses over 1,100 women who do not get the same opportunity to enjoy the local landscape. At least not until they’re released from prison.

One small group of current inmates will have a much better chance at succeeding when that time comes, thanks to a coveted slot in the prison’s eyeglass recycling course, run jointly with the Lions Club of Oregon. Last month saw the graduation of the most recent crop of a dozen women, who now are trained and certified by the state of Oregon as optometric technicians. This, obviously, makes employment upon release much more feasible. It’s possibly the single biggest hurdle a former inmate must overcome in light of the reluctance of employers to hire convicted felons.

The occasion was marked by plenty of heartfelt words and a lot of tears. And afterward, inmates who at one time faced disgrace and ruin in a distant courtroom were able to embrace family members and loved ones in a moment of redemption.

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