Corrections Team Spotlight
“I admire the staff so much for being able to create a safe space for individuals to learn, grow, and make change within the challenging environment that is corrections,” says Senior Program Manager Lara Krumm, “this work takes some passionate, special, talented individuals.”
In many ways, the story of TPN begins with our Corrections staff. When we were founded in 1993, TPN (then Pathfinders of Oregon) focused solely on providing cognitive behavioral classes within Oregon’s institutions. With time, we began to identify more needs in our community, and developed additional curriculum and eventually opened the Center for Family Success in 2005. It has now been 29 years since we began facilitating classes with Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC), and our Corrections programming continues to serve hundreds of people incarcerated throughout the state.
Entering an Oregon DOC institution is “like walking into a completely different culture,” says Senior Programs Manager Lara Krumm. “It’s completely different from our offices or other programs, and there can be a lot more restrictions and rules to follow.” Often the only TPN team member in their facility, Corrections team members act as liaisons and representatives for our agency within ODOC. “You’d think that the ODOC operates as one entity, but in reality each institution has its set of rules, and its own culture,” says Kim Gibson, Corrections Programs Manager.
Each day, TPN staff arrive at 9 of Oregon’s correctional institutions; they leave their phones and laptops in their car or a locker and pass through security with only their materials and curriculum for the day. “Once we go in there, we don’t have a connection with the outside world,” says Corrections Program Manager Kindra French, “We don’t have our cell phones, we can’t access our TPN email, google docs, or anything like that.” Once inside, they find their way to the TPN workspace located inside of each facility. In some institutions, TPN staff have a dedicated office or cubicle area, while in others they share workspaces with DOC staff. Here, they get ready to facilitate their morning and afternoon classes for the day, then head off to their classrooms.
The spaces where class takes place, and the students in attendance, can vary widely between institutions. We often connect with these participants in some of their most vulnerable moments, when most of their choices are dictated by systems. These challenging circumstances make it all the more powerful when students engage and find meaning in the curriculum. “These are people who are hopefully going to be released,” said Stacee Sanchez, Corrections Program Manager, “the more they engage in classes, the bigger that impact will be on the outside.”
Above all, each of the Corrections Programs Managers emphasize that exceptional staff are key to the success of programs within ODOC. “Every single person on the team is absolutely amazing,” says Kindra, “they’re flexible, honest, and willing to shift to see things from a different point of view." Kim calls his team “second to none.” “They have so much heart,” he says, “It takes an unbelievable amount of personal courage to show up to work in institutions each day.” Thanks to the work of facilitators and administrators who implement and manage DOC programs, thousands of people who are incarcerated get closer to completing their goals each year. Through challenging circumstances and changing expectations, the corrections team continue to show up and make a difference in the lives of the people we serve inside institutions.