MAKING AMENDS FEATURES SIX MEN INCARCERATED AT THE OREGON STATE PENITENTIARY. THEY SHARE STORIES ABOUT THEIR STRUGGLE TO ATONE FOR THE ACTIONS THAT BROUGHT THEM TO PRISON.
For several weeks in the early part of 2020, Professor Steve Herbert taught a class inside the Oregon State Penitentiary. The course explored what it means to do harm to others, and what it can mean to try to make things right. It also explored whether the punishment system in the United States -- which incarcerates more people than any society in history -- promotes genuine accountability for criminal offenses. Besides the class, Professor Herbert interviewed several of the class participants in one-on-one conversations, to learn more about their individual stories, and about the particular challenges they face in their efforts to make amends for their past wrongs.
Making Amends provides an opportunity to hear voices too commonly ignored in conversations about our criminal justice policy. It also challenges listeners to consider how we might better ensure greater accountability for those who commit wrongs. It asks: If we wish to see as many prisoners as possible pursue genuine accountability, do our current practices of punishment help us achieve that goal?
THE GUYS INSIDE
Cameron came to prison as a teenager and fell in with crews that perpetuated violence. This led to an incident in which a correctional officer shot and killed his best friend, while Cameron stood alongside. He struggled with how best to honor his friend. Eventually, he decided that his friend would not want him to be a knucklehead his whole life, and Cameron has transformed himself into someone of whom he could be proud.
Born in Egypt and raised in Saudi Arabia, Moustafa struggled to assimilate into a foreign culture. At the age of 20, the course of his journey took a tragic turn, leaving him with a 15-year prison sentence. While incarcerated, he has explored the teachings of Restorative Justice, believing the best way to repair harm is through a process that includes offenders, victims, and the community. Moustafa strives to atone for his mistakes by living in accordance with the teachings of RJ, and being a positive influence on those around him.
Receiving a 25-to-life sentence at the age of 18, Steve came to the prison system with a need to prove himself and to adapt to living in an adult world. This resulted in him being indicted for two additional violent crimes, and spending almost all of his 20’s in solitary confinement. He is now dedicated to becoming a better man. He is married, in contact with a daughter who was born while he was a teenager, and a grandfather of two.
Terrence is trying to make the best of his circumstances, and views his time in prison as a period for building through education, whether it be formal or informal. He believes that, regardless of the path a person walks in life, they are the one responsible for the results: what one gets out of life is a direct result of what one is willing to put into it.
Theron is serving life without the possibility of parole for a crime he committed as a teenager. He is the Vice President of Uhuru Sasa, an African American Cultural Club that operates within the Oregon State Penitentiary, a facilitator of Restorative Justice efforts, a voice of youth sentencing reforms, and an advocate for human rights.
Steve Herbert is the Mark Torrance Professor of Law, Societies, and Justice at the University of Washington, Seattle. His interest in mass incarceration was borne from his teaching experiences inside prisons, primarily at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington. He is the author of Too Easy to Keep: Life-Sentenced Prisoners and the Future of Mass Incarceration.
Other Contributors to Making Amends
Others to Thank:
Jennifer Black, Katherine Beckett, Chad Hamlin, Dan McAdams, Shadd Maruna, Melissa Michaux, Avrohom Perlstein, Linda Radzik, Lydia Smith, Karuna Thompson