By Martin Lockett, Director of Cultural Engagement
I recently had the privilege, with Lines for Life’s Equity Team, of visiting Portland State University to speak with Rebound – a unique program serving formerly incarcerated individuals who are rebuilding their lives by attending college. Rebound provides resources and support, including peer support, for students in the program, who may otherwise have a difficult time transitioning from prison life to student life.
Because of the ways that racism impacts individual bias and creates systemic injustice, Black communities are targeted and impacted by Criminal Justice systems at higher rates than the general population. Black Oregonians are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of white people and make up 10% of Oregon’s jail and prison population – even though only 2% of Oregon residents are Black.
I told my personal story – about the mental health and substance use challenges that eventually landed me in prison for a very long time. I know firsthand how challenging it can be to reintegrate into society after 10 or 20 years. People of color particularly need healing and support, as the systemic and societal issues continue afterward.
My message for those who look like me and come from where I do is: There are mental health professionals who understand the unique struggles we face. Together, we can overcome them.
Following the presentation and Q&A session, our partners at PSU led us on a tour of the many student resource centers devoted to supporting students with specific marginalized identities. This created an opportunity for us to drop off brochures and resources about the Racial Equity Support Line and other culturally specific resources that people can access to find help.
In the spirit of Black History Month and Celebrating Black Joy, we were able to connect with PSU Rebound students, and bring hope and inspiration to a group of folks who are often overlooked and underserved.