When we first wrote about our time at Oregon State Penitentiary we shared our trepidations of entering a male maximum security prison. In that tale we introduced you to Megan Lowe, a Corporal Corrections Officer at OSP, but she wasn’t the only one we were meeting that day. Once we wrapped our dynamic shoot with Megan in the middle of a locked down cell block we were ready to be securely relocated. We arrived to a space that looked more like a recreation room at a day camp rather than a prison
The large gym like open space was outlined with rooms made of chain link fencing. Each brightly colored vibrant room contained a different club run by the inmates themselves with the help of Patrice Lans.
Patrice is Oregon State Penitentiary’s Activities Director and another addition to our ongoing project, Women’s Work. Before taking on the challenge of working in male prison Patrice spent twenty-four years in the grocery industry and peaked at the corporate office level. Feeling the need to change paths she accepted a temporary position in the kitchen of Coffee Creek Correctional Facility as a food service coordinator. Soon after this, she was asked to interview for a different position and was hired by the activities department in OSP.
I really like the niche that I’m working in. I love to be in the trenches instead of managing other tasks and such. I’d rather be working with the people, making stuff happen.Patrice Lans
And with her help stuff does happen. For one, Patrice and the Asian Pacific Family Club of OSP are working towards being the first prison in the western world to have a healing garden within its walls.
It has been proven that nature such as flowing water and plant life can reduce stress. In a study in 2016 done by Arcadia University about gardening programs in prisons has shown to enhance incarcerated individuals’ psychosocial well-being in three different ways:
- Increased their self-efficacy and self-worth
- Decreased their anxiety and depression symptoms
- Reduction in reincarceration rates.
With the healing garden there is hope of improving the overall quality of life for all the inmates.
I feel strongly that I’m making an impact by building and facilitating these programs in the prison, so that the inmates will be better citizens when they get out.Patrice Lans
Patrice is making a difference is the lives of the inmates she works with and with her help projects like the healing garden become a reality. A reality that benefits everyone.