Inmates reflect and plan for future


Last updated 6/17/2003 at Noon

Sisters Ranger District

Inmates, like most folks who see the Cascades from atop Black Butte, found the sight soul stirring. Photo by Maret Pajutee

Mountain tops have always been places for reflection and soul searching. Inmates contracted to dismantle an old lookout tower on Black Butte earlier this month marveled at the beauty and spoke of their lives, their mistakes, and their hopes for the future.

Keith Gleave of Portland sees a change in his future and credits the unique program forged between the Department of Corrections and the Deschutes National Forest.

"I've been down (in prison) seven times," he said. "I've been through every program Oregon has to offer. The Deschutes Program is the best I've seen to come out of the Department of Corrections.

"I never really learned about a work ethic before. This program gives people work skills, confidence and feeling of accomplishment. I feel like I've been part of history today taking apart this old tower.

"We've all paid our price and being able to give back to the community is pretty important to all of us. I want to fight fire this summer and search out avenues to find employment when I get out. These guys will be out in three years or less. They'll be your neighbors. The biggest downfall of the Department of Corrections is that there are not more programs like this."

Jeff Grant of Medford was awed by the view and the task.

"This is the first time I've done something like this," he said. "I've never seen so many mountains so close together. It's beautiful. We all make mistakes and we're paying for it. For committing crime and doing time, here I'm able to contribute back to society for the mistake I made."

Vincent Hood of Florence spoke of his love of teaching music:

"I'm originally from St Louis. I'm a classical musician and I play seven instruments," he said. "I praise God I have the opportunity to get up here and do something constructive."

Jeff Tackett of Salem explained how the work program benefits the inmates.

"It's good for the inmates to get out and learn and get some experiences. It gives us something good to do," he said. "I enjoy doing positive things. It prepares our minds for getting out. It's been a blessing for me to be out here."

Many of the inmates spoke proudly of family waiting for their release, children, daughters in college, and girlfriends. Others were still searching for a connection.

Troy Lawrence of Portland is looking forward to his release.

"Today's my 38th birthday and it's my last birthday in DOC (Department of Corrections)," he said. "I'll be out in 25 days. It's breathtaking up here -- so peaceful. I can just imagine being up here all by yourself in the lookout. This is an experience -- one I'll never forget. I've got a job in highway construction when I get out and I can't wait to get my job back in society."


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