LIFE Project: Prison Education for Women Inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

By Kristina Hall

Outside of Wilsonville, Oregon sits the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Inside of this correctional facility is a very special prison education program for women inmates called LIFE (Lifelong Information for Entrepreneurs). The program has been developed to build business and pro-social skills for incarcerated women.

The core of the LIFE program addresses self-employment and micro enterprise development for women after they are released from the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Inmate participants are taught skills that can be used in business and self-employment. LIFE helps their students to create productive lives after release and to establish self-sufficiency and economic stability for themselves and their families.  Image courtesy homebizsocial.com

LIFE is the mastermind and lifeblood of Mercury Corps Northwest (MCNW). MCNW is an organization dedicated to helping low-income incarcerated women learn vital business skills that are essential for managing and building small businesses. Inmates must be within 18-24 months of release to be able to build a solid working relationship leading to curriculum completion and release. The education program focuses on business planning, financial literacy, soft skills (conflict resolution, goal setting, time management), and planning for transition from prison to open society.

Funding for the LIFE program is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with a four year grant to MCNW that began in 2010. Other private funding comes from the Portland Community College, Kaiser Permanente Community Fund, and the State of Oregon Department of Corrections.

The teaching and counseling staff is made up of community experts, volunteers, and experienced students. After release, LIFE graduates are able to stay connected with these instructors to help with the reentry process.

MCNW also provides a matched savings program tailored to State of Oregon inmates. Students must demonstrate consistent attendance in the LIFE program, complete all homework, create and execute a savings plan based on their current earnings and needs, and complete both a transition plan and business plan. If the student fulfills all of these requirements, they are eligible for a $500 grant for transition needs after release.

The LIFE program at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility has seen wonderful post-release business skills amongst the former women inmates and a huge reduction in recidivism, too.

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LIFE Project-Prison Education for Women Inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

Located outside of Wilsonville, Oregon, lies the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Inside of this correctional facility is a very special prison education program for women inmates called-LIFE (Lifelong Information for Entrepreneurs.)  The program has been developed to build business and pro-social skills for incarcerated women.

The core of the LIFE program addresses self-employment and micro enterprise development for women after they are released from the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Inmate/students are taught skills that can be used in business and self-employment. LIFE helps their students to create productive lives after release and to establish self-sufficiency and economic stability for themselves and their families.

“LIFE helps their students to create productive lives after release and to establish self-sufficiency and economic stability for themselves and their families.”

LIFE is the mastermind and lifeblood from Mercury Corps Northwest (MCNW.) MCNW is an organization dedicated to helping low-income and incarcerated women learn vital business skills that are essential for managing and building small businesses.

Inmates must be within 18-24 months of release to be able to build a solid working relationship leading to curriculum completion and release. The education program focuses on business planning, financial literacy, soft skills (conflict resolution, goal setting, time managment) and importantly-planning for transition from prison to open society.

Funding for the LIFE program is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with a four year grant to MCNW that began in 2010. Other private funding comes from the Portland Community College, Kaiser Permanente Community Fund and the State of Oregon Department of Corrections.

The teaching and counseling staff are made up of community experts, volunteers and experienced students. After release, LIFE graduates are able to stay connected with these instructors to help them with the reentry process.

MCNW also provides a matched savings program tailored to State of Oregon inmates. Students must demonstrate consistent attendance  in the LIFE program, complete all homework, create and execute a savings plan based on their current earnings and needs, and complete both a transition plan and business plan. If the student fulfills all of these requirements, they are eligible for a $500.00 grant for transition needs after release.

The LIFE program at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility has seen wonderful results in post-release business skills amongst the former women inmates and a huge reduction in recidivism. Please take a moment to watch this video on more of the LIFE program.

1 thought on “LIFE Project-Prison Education for Women Inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility”

  1. I (Heather Heaton) am recommending my new ebook ("Her Letters from Prison") as a motivational resource for reading pleasure, review, contemplation, and comment. My ebook will validate your inquisitive doubts about what goes on in women’s prisons; it can justify the efforts spent toward ministries to women’s prisons; and it can be an inspirational (tell-it-like-it-is) resource for drug rehab/prevention programs. The book is non-fiction inspirational Christian romance (It is what it is!); and the original letters (with prison art) are included as images for authenticity. You can go to http://www.heather-heaton.com and purchase “Her Letters from Prison”, Parts 1 and 2.

    If you don’t happen to own a Kindle, Nook, or some other eReader device, then download the FREE Adobe Digital Editions software to your computer to read the “epub” version of my ebook as purchased from Smashwords. Multiple versions of my ebook are available on Smashwords.

    I am a 34 year old college student trying to better my life, in spite of the baggage I carry from my previous life. To date, I have been quite successful in accomplishing this goal; and I will use the proceeds from the book to help support myself. My picture is posted, with my book descriptions, at Smashwords.

    My recently published ebook is entitled ("Her Letters from Prison: Part 1 & Part 2", by Heather Heaton). The ebook was published at Smashwords (www.smashwords.com). A brief description of the ebook follows:
    1. Breanna tells the true story of her experiences in prison through her letters to her friend Heath. This is a story of survival and a quest to make a better life. The letters describe the daily shocking events of prison life involving drugs, sex, utter devastation and humiliation, anger, hopelessness, despair, and finally happiness and hope.

    2. Breanna's "truth" stands still even as the world around her trembles and burns! Bad things do happen to good people; and Breanna is the perfect example of this truth.

    3. Breanna's inner strengths and principles eventually win out over the corruption and evil that surrounds her. With God's help, Breanna survives the horrible experiences of prison life and regains her self-confidence and hope for a better life.

    4. "Breanna" was an inmate at Tutwiler Women's Prison from 2007 to 2009.

    5. "Breanna" benefitted from women's prison ministries and the LIFE Tech-Wetumpka state-funded self-help program.

    The Introduction page of the ebook follows:

    Introduction:
    The story you are about to read is true. Unfortunately, it’s my story; and the truth is often much more intriguing than fiction. I have had to deal with this story (this situation) for more than the past ten years. I started living out this story with all the hopes and dreams of most (if not all) young American girls; and I will finish this story by realizing most of those hopes and dreams, even though they have been interrupted for a time (in prison) that seems like time and time again. Through it all, I have managed to learn some life lessons that I hope to give to you; and I am hoping that you can pick up on these lessons earlier in life than I have done. I should have learned these lessons long ago. If I had learned these lessons long ago, I assure you that I would not have written the material you are now reading. My hope is that nobody else has to endure what I have endured learning life lessons that should be given to youngsters and adolescents early in life by the ones who truly love them. But here again, there are probably other youngsters and adolescents, much like me, who will have to learn these life lessons painfully for themselves, the hard way – by experiencing them first hand. Well, if you continue to read my story, here’s what you will experience – drugs, sex, violence, prison, utter devastation/humiliation, anger, hopelessness, despair, and finally happiness and hope!

    If you don’t take me seriously and you follow in my path, you are going to experience false hope and disillusionment! You are going to experience broken trusts, by those whom you trusted most! You are going to experience pain and agony that brings you to the brink of self-destruction! You will lose your freedom! You will lose the right to think for yourself and to make your own decisions! You will lose your sense of self-worth and self-dignity! You are going to lose your ability to support yourself! You are going to lose your self-confidence! You are going to be victimized; and you can do little to avoid this! You will struggle and struggle and struggle just to get yourself back onto an even keel! But if you can ever manage to muster a tremendous mountain of stubbornness and determination, and if you can begin to think better of yourself, you will be able to recover most, but not all, of your ability to manage your own affairs while regaining some of your self-confidence and feeling of self-worth. I am just about to accomplish this in my life! Being just about able to accomplish this in my life is what has led me to (it has allowed me to) share my story with you. At first, I didn’t think I could ever share my story with anyone. But, I really don’t want you to actually share (live through) my experiences, even if you think you can handle it. Just read this story and do something positive in your own life.

    Note: Names have been changed to protect each individual's privacy.

    Dedication:
    This work is dedicated to Valrise Bendolf (Clay County Dept. of Corrections Holding Facility), Jackie Ratliff (Kilby – Montgomery Womens’ Facility), Fawn Romie/Mr. Roberts/Gary Parsons (Life Tech) and all of Mr. Robert’s little roses that he so diligently cultivated. For all their good works, these people saved my life!

    I hope that you find this ebook both interesting and helpful.

    Sincerely,
    Heather Heaton
    http://www.heather-heaton.com
    http://www.herlettersfromprison.com

    Customer/Reader Review of “Her Letters from Prison”
    Heather, ever since you first contacted me about your ebooks (and when I received them) I have been giving them traction. At least two women on my case load checked them out, (like a library card so I would get them back) and were very moved by the content. I haven’t had another problem with their behavior since they read them. So…I know they are working. They should be required reading, ordered by a Judge before women are sentenced to probation, so that they would fully understand the consequences of their behavior. The coverage by The Prison Art Coalition blog is very good news both for Heather and for those that will read her story.

    They (“Her Letters from Prison: Parts 1 & 2) should be used as text books for the next Life Tech facility for Women!!! I wish I had some pull for money to build a better one. I pray for it.

    Gary Parsons
    Parole Officer
    State of Alabama – Board of Pardons & Parole

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