Workshop Page


Check out the Our Workshops page — now updated with our first three weeks of workshops!

Each week we’ll add a couple photos and a brief description of the session.



Mothers of Bedford

Women Make Movies released this film by Jenifer McShane about the experience of motherhood during incarceration. Description below:

Women are the fastest-growing U.S. prison population today. Eighty percent are mothers of school-age children.  Jenifer McShane’s absorbing documentary gives human dimensions to these rarely reported statistics, taking us inside Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison north of New York City. Shot over four years, MOTHERS OF BEDFORD follows five women – of diverse backgrounds and incarcerated for different reasons- in dual struggles to be engaged in their children’s lives and become their better selves. It shows how long-term sentences affect mother-child relationships and how Bedford’s innovative Children’s Center helps women maintain and improve bonds with children and adult relatives awaiting their return. Whether it be parenting’s normal frustrations to celebrating a special day, from both inside and out of the prison walls, this moving film provides unprecedented access to a little known, rarely shown, community of women.

The Last Known Prison Photography Project

InsideOut tells the story of a group of inmates in the infamous Lorton Correctional Facility in Washington, D.C., who undergo a transformative process through a photography program by allowing them to express the challenges they face while incarcerated. (source)

Another great item from OTPW-er Sam: Karen Ruckman held the last known photography workshop for prisoners inside a US adult prison in the 80’s. She is in the process of putting together a documentary using footage shot inside Lorton.

The above video is a trailer for her film.

Ruckman’s tumblr shows some of the incredible work.

Reading as Rehabilitation



Can reading and discussing Socrates or Of Mice and Men in a classroom transform a person? Change his perspective,  push her to think more critically or reflect differently?

For many of us who have been positively impacted by our academic experiences with literature, we’d readily say yes. But what about someone who didn’t have access to AP English in high school, who hardly felt welcomed by the classics at all because he reads at a 3rd grade level and was accordingly never given the opportunity to engage with such books?


Over These Prison Walls is all about the power of literacy–making it enjoyable, and accessible, to youth in detention–and so it is very cool to see an article from the Guardian that one of our students, Sam, sent along: Novel Approach: Reading Courses as an Alternative to Prison. It profiles an impressive new program being implemented in Texas, called Changing Lives Through Literature–an alternative sentencing program “based on the power to transform lives through reading and group discussion.”

CLTL is (from their website) “essentially a reading group that meets over a period of weeks and that is attended by an instructor, probation officer, judge, and students … CLTL has the ability to allow us to make connections with the characters or ideas in a text and to rethink our own behavior.”

It is truly heartening that the simple yet profound acts of reading and discussion are being recognized by judges as a legitimate sentencing alternative, and an essential part of a more effective rehabilitation system.



Prison Photography

Pete Brook is a Portland-based writer, journalist, and curator whose work represents an impressive catalogue and history of prison photography.

The video above was made by Tim Matsui in 2011, who accompanied Pete on the road for a week and documented his work, including a workshop delivered at Sing Sing Prison in New York: “With an eye toward prison reform, writer and academic Pete Brook analyzes prison photography from behind his desk. After three years, he decided it was time to get out, on the road, and meet the people he’d written about. Especially the prisoners.”

Pete answers the question, Why photography? 

Cameras and their operators function in recording, and to some degree, interpreting the stories of (and within) prison systems. How varied is the imagery?

If a camera is within prison walls we should always be asking; How did it get there? What are/were the motives? What are the responses? What social and political powers are at play in a photograph’s manufacture? And, how is knowledge, related to those powers, constructed?

Prison Photography also concerns itself with civil liberties, ethics and social justice as they relate to photography and photojournalism.

(text from Prison Photography)

His website offers a wealth of thoughtful writing, news, photographs, and links to prison blogs, artists’ websites, and resources on prison education and reform. Be sure to check it out.

Photo by Jack Jeffries

Photo by Jack Jeffries

We are lucky enough to have Pete visit Over These Prison Walls on October 30th.

All This Talent is Locked Away….

A short video of the Prison Art show from the University Beyond Bars program at Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, WA.

University Beyond Bars “provides the only sustained access to a college education available to prisoners at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, Washington. Its volunteer faculty, minimal staff, and organizing committee of dedicated prisoner-students create an active, inclusive learning community that offers all prisoners, based solely on their demonstrated devotion to learning, the opportunity to take college courses and earn an Associates or Bachelors degree. “

What’s My Campaign?

Through our work with the youth in detention, it becomes impossible to not feel the magnitude of Measure 11 — It weighs heavy upon the shoulders of the boys, looms in the long fluorescent-lit hallways of the facility, surfaces on the pages of their artwork and writing.

We ask: But what can we do?

The Campaign for Youth Justice is a good place to start. It is “dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.”

The site provides a Fact Sheet that illuminates the findings of a 2011 report, Misguided Measures: The Outcomes and Impacts of Measure 11 on Oregon’s Youth.

Below is their PSA: