Thursday, March 20, 2008

Interviewing Shelli Madden by Tallulah Smith

The Eddie Warrior Correctional Center is a mostly minimum security facility. From the outside, it looks more like a small community college than a prison.

The buildings where the women live are made of brick and arranged in a "U" shape with a grassy area in the center. Beyond the housing units, there are buildings where inmates eat their meals, take college courses, or work out.

I interviewed Shelli Madden, a petite, attractive 40-year-old woman with shoulder-length hair. Her eyes were bright. As she sat down in front of me, I could tell she was an easy-going person.

Shelli is from Disney, a small town on Grand Lake. She remembers a good childhood there with her younger sister. She said she's still close to her family and misses them all, including her dad who passed away seven years ago from cancer.

Shelli's in prison for drug trafficking of methamphetamines.

She explained: "[With] drug trafficking, the way they determine if it's a trafficking charge is by weight, by actually how much of the drug that you had. And I had enough for it to be classified as a trafficking charge instead of just possession with intent."

Shelli was going through a divorce at the time and let a man move in with her. He was trafficking meth in her house and she knew he was doing it.

"So, I mean, yeah. I guess I'm just as guilty as he was. I allowed it to happen in my home," she said.

or Shelli, meth started out as a recreational drug but then became addictive. "And actually," she continued, "making money probably became more addictive than the drug itself."

Her total sentence is 20 years, she said, "10 years in [prison] and 10 years on paper."

I noticed that she was wearing a light gray military-style uniform with a yellow braid on her left shoulder. Shelli explained that the uniform was part of a regimented treatment program that will increase her chances of being released earlier and suspend some of her paper time.

The program follows a military pattern. The women march everywhere they go and are segregated from the general prison population. "We're like a community within a community," she said.

Shelli has four months left in the program. In June, she hopes to go home.

"My son wants to get married, so he's waiting for me to come home," she said with a smile.

The best thing about prison, Shelli said, is the treatment program. "I'm blessed to be in this program. Because this is a long-term substance abuse program and obviously that's what I need."

"That's my goal: not to be high anymore."

Tallulah Smith is a film studies student at TU.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tina's Story by Jamil Malone

Tina came to Oklahoma from Miami, Fla., following her husband at the time to Tulsa.

She got a job as a surgeon’s assistant and was a favorite among the surgeons she worked with at a Tulsa hospital. With two kids at home, Tina worked hard to provide for them. But she felt she needed to work more.

That’s when she found a new way to earn money. Tina began drug trafficking in methamphetamine.

I had never done drugs in my life," she said. "The only reason I started trafficking was because it was an easy way to do more work.”

After a few months, Tina got caught. She was sent to the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft. She’s been there for the past three and a half years, but hopes to be paroled this summer.

Tina has learned many things since being incarcerated at the Warrior Center. She currently works in the saddle shop and does leather work and painting. Although she grew up with little artistic background or experience, she showed me a notebook filled with pictures of her amazing artwork.

Tina is not impressed by the Warrior Center's drug treatment sessions. “Everything here is faith-based," she said. "You take the first ten minutes to talk about what the drug is, and then the rest of the time is spent praying. That isn’t helpful at all.”

Tina is looking forward to the summer, when she hopes to be paroled. She confidently says she’ll never go back to drugs.

Though she would like to get a job back with the surgical group, she feels this is impossible because of her prison time. Instead, she is looking at getting a job working with leather and art.

Tina’s favorite time of the day is when the mail arrives. She looks forward to getting letters from anyone. Sadly, there's little mail to look forward to.

“They just forget about you," Tina said, "not because they don’t remember you, but because they become too busy with their own lives.”

Jamil Malone is a communication major at The University of Tulsa.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tanda Marshall's Story by Rodrick Thomas

For 35-year-old inmate Tanda Marshall, life has been anything but easy.

As a child Tanda was a good student, a participant in beauty pageants, someone aspiring to get everything out of life, just like other young women.

At the age of 12, however, she was placed in foster care. By 14, Tanda was married to her first husband, a relationship that produced two children.

That marriage failed. Tanda remarried and had two more children. After her second marriage ended in divorce, she met a new man and had another child, leaving her a single mother of five children—a 20-year-old son, an 18-year-old daughter, 16-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old son, and a 10-year-old son.

Tanda said she had to do something drastic to support them, which led her the business of selling crystal meth in Tulsa. According to Tanda, her business was thriving unless she got caught.

She had gone to jail before for the distribution of drugs. But she said her first experience in jail did not affect her like her current sentence does. She did not tell me much about what caused her to become imprisoned the second time, but she reiterated that it was a terrible experience.

Tanda describes herself as a survivor, not a bad person. She has not forgotten where she has come from.

At Eddie Warrior, Tanda is on her way to an associate’s degree in business. She aspires to be a certified drug and alcohol counselor. She encourages young women she meets in prison to not go down the road she did.

Tanda’s story is not only informative but inspirational. If she follows through with everything that she says she will, Tanda Marshall’s story will be a tale of triumph over a string of bad circumstances.

Rodrick Thomas is a student-athlete and a communication major at TU.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Prisoner's Humanity by Brian Britt

DUI. Assault and battery. First-degree manslaughter.


These terms may seem mutually exclusive, but all of them may be used to describe Janice Jones, a 47-year-old woman serving 10 years in Taft's Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility.

"I made a bad choice," said Jones, who will be considered for parole in 2011. "I was a bondsman, but I had a drinking problem."

Jones was on parole for driving under the influence in 2003 when she and a friend got into an argument while consuming alcohol. Her friend, Jones said, tried to rape her, and she stabbed him during the struggle.

According to Jones, although she didn't intend to kill her friend, the fact that she violated her parole made the incident first-degree manslaughter.

"It was self-defense, and I never left the scene," she said. "But I was hysterical, so when the police showed up I got in a fight with them. I got assault and battery charges, and since I was out on parole it all stacked up."

Jones added that she was lucky to have a short sentence, since one of her friends received 75 years for the same offense. "Even though I was caught up in a bad situation, it was for the better."

The Department of Corrections, Jones explained, exists to correct inmates' behavior and change their lives. But it can't force those changes upon anyone.

"If you think you're coming in to play games, you won't change," Jones said. "Some people here will push you along the wrong path. But I made up my mind to do what I can to help people as a role model. Now they call me 'Mama Janice.'"

Jones regularly attends the Christian Women's Association, Genesis I, and substance abuse classes offered in Eddie Warrior, and she serves as a counselor for new inmates.

She also noted that her experience in prison has changed her outlook.

"I couldn't deal with life's turns after my mom died, so I dealt with them with a bottle," she said. "But you can make it without drugs and alcohol. I'll never drink again. And I don't say that lightly.

"It's up to us to change."

Brian Britt is a TU senior studying communication.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sherry Cummings' Story by Jacob Niebergall

A woman with a small round face, framed behind dark spectacles, softly told me the story of how she had come to live behind the walls of the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center.

“I thought I had to be married to get out from under my mom,” Sherry Cummings told me.

The oldest of eight children, Sherry married at 14 and traveled the country with her husband. The couple journeyed to New Mexico, Colorado, California, Florida, and a few places in between.

The independence she found traveling with her first husband was a welcome change from living at home with her mother, helping raise the seven other children.

At age 16, Sherry left her first husband for a man she called “Dr. Jekyll versus Mr. Hyde,” a man she described as abusive, controlling, and paranoid.

“He slept with a .38 under his pillow every single night. If I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I’d have to wake him up and ask him.”

Sherry depicted her relationship with Dr. Jekyll as abusive in every possible way: physically, verbally, emotionally, mentally, and sexually.

“You’re so scared, but then you just get numb. I learned to accept it, and gave up on life.”

Sherry never stood up for herself, but over time she learned to take the beatings, and pick herself up after every blow.

“I would take it until he was tired,” she said.

Jessie told her what to do, what to say, what to think, and when to think it. Jessie controlled Sherry’s life.

On September 5, 1991, Sherry’s husband, Jessie James Cummings, and his other wife, Juanita Cummings, were directly involved in the murder of Jessie’s sister Judy, and his niece Melissa.

Sherry Cummings was convicted of two counts of Accessory to Murder After the Fact, and one count of Permitting Child Abuse.

She was incarcerated in 1994 at Oklahoma City’s Old Mable Bassatt, then moved to a private prison in Odessa, Texas, then McCloud prison, then in June of 2005, she was transferred to Eddie Warrior.

Even after years of abuse, and years of incarceration, Sherry still has ambition and a surprising sort of spirit in her demeanor. She said time has given her the opportunity to look inside herself and re-evaluate who she is.

In all of her resilience, Sherry has not become a casualty of the abuse she endured. Sherry now accepts herself, and is happy with who she is.

“I have no marks that anyone can see," she said. "All my marks are on the inside

Jacob Niebergall, pictured above, is a TU communication student.

Wanetta's Story by Amanda Kliner

Wanetta is 39 years old. Her husband is an ordained minister. She has two children, ages 11 and 19.

She exercises every day. She has an easy laugh, and speaks with assurance. She is from Oklahoma City, but has lived in Taft for the last several months.

This may sound like an unremarkable description of any woman in her thirties, but what makes Wanetta different is what she is doing in Taft. She is an inmate at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, finishing up a Substance Abuse Treatment program.

She entered Eddie Warrior six and a half months ago from a jail in Oklahoma City. She is here on drug and alcohol charges, grounds for a felony. She has been incarcerated since December 2006.

The inmates in the substance abuse program at Eddie Warrior have a different experience than those in the general correctional center. They are usually only held up to a year. Wanetta looks forward to her release, smiling as she explains that the date will be March 6 of this year.

For now, Wanetta misses her family, and the things that she looks forward to most while in the correctional center are mail, phone time, and the canteen on Eddie Warrior grounds.

Perhaps what is most interesting about Wanetta is her determination and ability to transform. She explains that many women who have been incarcerated do not want to change. They do not want to follow rules, and do not want to acknowledge that the lives they conducted before getting arrested were troubled.

Wanetta is just the opposite. She holds her time at Eddie Warrior as valuable, and knows that it was time for her to change perspective.

The youngest of six children, Wanetta says that her journey into the world of drugs and alcohol was “learned behavior.” Few siblings managed to escape the influence of the oldest sister, who introduced them to such behavior.

“Drugs and alcohol do not discriminate,” she says, almost laughing.

Listening to this woman, the wife of a minister, with greater determination and confidence than most college students I know, it is easy to see the statement’s truth.

“It is a blessing to be here,” Wanetta explains at the beginning of our interview. Her optimism and genuine determination are humbling.

It is sometimes difficult to remember stories of true human courage, and how they make us aware of the commonalities that bring people together from all walks of life.

But listening to Wanetta, it is harder and harder not to be aware of the ties that bind us all.

Amanda Kliner, shown above with Wanetta, is a communication student at TU.

Jena Shelton's Struggle by Ben Pernu

Jena Shelton had a middle-class upbringing in Newcastle, Okla. Her mom was a teacher, and her dad worked at a car dealership. “You get used to having that kind of a lifestyle,” Jena said, “with money available.”

But when her job as a consultant for Ramada Inn didn’t allow her to live as she was accustomed, Jena started gaining money dishonestly.

Looking back, Jena wishes she had stayed home longer. She knows now her parents gave her good advice, but she didn’t listen when she was younger.

Instead, Jena started working different types of scams, including getting multiple bank loans for one new car. She did this for five years, until she admits, “I got sloppy.”

Shelton was found guilty of Obtaining Money Under False Pretenses, and sentenced to 8 years in prison.
Jena spent time in Mable Bassett Correctional Center, but is currently in the Warrior Correctional Center.

After the lack of freedom at Mable Bassett, the relative freedom offered at Eddie Warrior was frightening for a while. “I was afraid to walk around at first,” she said.

Jena never feels unsafe at Eddie Warrior. She described it as being like a very strict college campus. She said all the prisoners are laid back, just waiting to go home. While incarcerated, Jena has spent a lot of time working in the saddle shop as a designer.

“I dabbled in art before I was incarcerated, but it turned into a job in here,” she said.

Jena’s saddle designs can be seen all over the state, but she no longer works at the saddle shop. She has kept to busy in prison to continue to work there.

“I teach English GED courses, and I’m working on my associate’s degree,” Jena said. “I just didn’t have time to keep working at the saddle shop.”

Jena gets out in six months. She has a house in Oklahoma City waiting for her, and a full ride to Vo-Tech in their Saddle and Boot Making School. She will have three years’ probation, and then she will be a free woman.

“It’s important to go home. I’m ready.”

A TU biology major, Ben Pernu (pictured above) is also working on a certificate in journalism studies.

Raquel Wahlenberg's Story by Angela Filicicchia

The town of Taft is a despairing place. Broken-down homes and fields of brown grass line the crumbling streets. Drive down one of the town's road and tucked away you will find the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, a women's prison.

Despite the town’s bleak prospect, Raquel Wahlenberg has hope.

Wearing her baggy gray uniform and a smile, Raquel’s dark attire hardly matches the warmth of her face.

With her long shiny black hair, bright white smile, and kind brown eyes, it hardly seems possible she could be capable of any crime.

The Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility has been Raquel’s home for the past seven years. She was incarcerated for drug manufacturing, a business she had been working in for 14 years.

“I just got in with the wrong crowd,” she says.

She was initially charged with a 47-year sentence, but is up for parole this month.

When Raquel first entered the correctional facility, she says she was a completely different person than she is today. She came to Eddie Warrior feeling angry, but today has unshakeable optimism for a new beginning to her life.

“If you don’t change yourself you’ll come back,” she says.

Change is exactly what Raquel has done at Eddie Warrior. She is continuing her education and anticipates getting her associate's degree in business administration next fall.

Raquel says that her education is one of her biggest priorities if there is any hope for a successful future once after she is freed.

“Knowledge is power,” she says firmly.

When she isn’t studying, she is hard at work in the saddle shop and learning more about the business, a business she one day hopes to own.

Raquel regularly attends SAE classes, a program designed to help inmates like herself with drug problems.

“It was an addiction,” she says. “I knew I would get caught one day.”

Raquel says after being sober for the past seven years, she has no plans on returning to a life of drugs.

With a full schedule, she still has time to lead the prison's Indian club. She has been the club’s president for the past three years and says it’s her kindness towards others that has helped her earn this position.

She has made the most of her time at the correctional center, but misses the everyday things that now seem like luxuries.

“I can’t wait to have chicken and a cheeseburger,” she says, laughing. For Raquel, microwave burritos have become her specialty.

While Eddie Warrior has helped her gain a new lease on life, Raquel says that the separation from her family has been the hardest to cope with. She left behind three children and five grandchildren, including three she has yet to meet, since her incarceration. Raquel only sees two of her three children every six months.

“It’s just not worth it,” she says with a tear in her eye.

Looking up at the ceiling, her eyes suddenly filled with tears, her past seems to be flashing in her mind.

“I wasn’t expecting to cry,” she says with a nervous laugh.

Raquel is confident that life after Eddie Warrior will be positive. Other women don’t have the same positive attitude, she says, which makes her the remarkable woman she is today.

With an unwavering hope, she makes clear her determination: “I refuse to leave the way I came in. I refuse.”

Angela Filicicchia is a communication senior at TU. A video interview with Raquel Wahlenberg is posted below. It was produced by Chris Galegar, a film studies student at TU.

Meeting Crystal Campbell by Ben Hauser

Crystal Campbell is a model inmate at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility in Taft. When I spoke with her, she was mannered and respectful, and her behavioral record is so clean that her case manager calls her a “ghost inmate.”

She described herself, however, as young and ignorant when she got involved with a man who abused her child. Campbell turned him in to the authorities, but she was arrested too for enabling child abuse.

Campbell was incarcerated at the age of 20 for a 10-year sentence, and has since served seven years. She’s up for parole in November 2009.

Campbell entered the facility with a seventh-grade education. Deciding she had nothing better to do with her time, she enrolled in the available high school classes and graduated with a near-perfect GPA. She had since taken all of the prison's college classes, but the facility offers very few courses past freshman level.

“Since I got my associate’s degree, there’s no more funding for me at all, so I’m trying to fight for that right now," she said.

“They figure once we get our degree then that’s enough of a life-changing experience for an inmate so that when we get out then everything’s going to be great and okay. I don’t know if they want to say that’s the highest expectation they can warrant for us or not, but I know I want to go a little bit higher.”

Campbell has been involved in several other activities since her stay as well. For two years she helped facilitate a behavioral program called “Thinking For a Change” and for the past three years she worked at a job making saddles for 35 cents an hour.

Her involvement and obedience with the establishment has raised her to the status of a level four inmate.

“You get an evaluation every month," she explained. "They evaluate you on your communication skills, how you work with other people, your signs of discipline and listening to orders.”

Level four is the highest an inmate can attain. So what perks come with it? Campbell says that they get to sleep in a two-person cubicle, which is a comfortable alternative from the dozens of bunk beds lined up in the center of each dorm.

Otherwise, however, Campbell feels there are few privileges she’s awarded for her good behavior. Sometimes she’ll return from work to find that the whole dorm—herself including—has been collectively punished for noise violations. She described how officers will treat level fours with little discretion when it comes to misconduct.

“One of my friends made parole, and she was a methamphetamine cook. She was cooking one night, and she left a glass of pure lye in the refrigerator and her 9- year-old son thought it was water and he drank it, and the only thing that saved his life was his 12-year-old cousin who dragged him out in the front yard and put a water hose down his throat. It ate the lining in his esophagus and stomach.

“She was crying one night and I felt like she was going to cause herself bodily harm; I felt like she was a threat to herself. She ran into her dorm and I ran in after her and I was caught by an officer.”

Campbell was reduced to level three for entering a dorm where she wasn’t allowed. It took her four months to regain her level four position and eight months to get back in a cubicle.

Since her stay, Campbell has become more educated and more ambitious than she had been on the outside, but must continue to deal with the reality of being a prisoner. Not until her sentence has finished will she be able to put her aptitude to good use.

Ben Hauser is a film studies student at TU.

Ashley's Story by Morgan Bolom

Everyone probably has an idea of what a prison inmate will look and act like. My preconceived image was shattered when I met Ashley, a petite 24-year-old inmate. Ashley was energetic, bright, and easy to talk to. I was curious to find out why a person who seemed as if she belonged on a college campus got stuck in prison.

“When I was younger I thought the rules didn’t apply to me,” Ashley said.

She had been in trouble since she was 12. It started with marijuana and escalated. After trying to run away several times, she landed in a juvenile correction facility. But her drug habits persisted.

In 1999 Ashley was sent to rehab. Rehab actually had a negative affect on her drug use. Ashley explains, “It served as a means for me to meet more people to do drugs with.”

After rehab Ashley got married, had a son, and became an exotic dancer. Her relationship with her husband became abusive. He did not work and forced her to be the sole source of income.

“I used my lifestyle as an excuse to use Xanex (a strong sedative),” she said. At the time, she weighed around 110 lbs and would take 8 to 9 pills accompanied by tequila. She would then blackout and the next day have no idea what had happened. “I put myself into some bad situations,” Ashley said.

Then Ashley got caught. She was the middle man in a meth deal with an undercover cop. She was sentenced to the Regiment Treatment Program at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility.

When I asked her about the program she told me that it had done wonders for her. “There are rules in the program like no cussing, no talking badly about others, and no talking directly to the drill instructors,” she explained.

The program is military-based. “It teaches discipline,” Ashley said.

All the women learn how to march, stand at attention and parade rest, and pivot. Ashley explained there are several levels the women can work towards and earn by showing maturity and good behavior.

“I am a facilitator,” Ashley said. A facilitator is the highest position and the only rank in the program allowed to speak directly to the drill instructors.

Ashley is very thankful that she was sentenced to this program. “It taught me not to take things for granted,” she said.

She also feels that it made her a better mother and a better person. The first thing she wants to do after her release is play with her kids. She hopes to earn her GED, get a stable job, regain custody of her three kids, and begin a new life.

Ashley’s greatest fear is ending back where she started because statistics show six out of 10 women return to prison. However, it seems as if everything is looking up for this bright, young woman.

I asked how much time she had left in the program. She enthusiastically answered, “Eleven days.”

Morgan Bolom, pictured above interviewing Ashley, is a film studies student at TU and a student-athlete.

Time with Raquel Wahlenberg by Chris Galegar

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Knowing Carole Bailey by Hunter Cates

Any woman who finds herself in the unenviable position of being incarcerated at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility would do well to get to know Carole Bailey.

Nestled (some would say hidden) away in the outer reaches of the perpetually obscure town of Taft, Warrior seems to exist in a state of perpetual autumn, surrounded by decay, with only the prospect of cold winter ahead.

It’s not the nicest of places, but Carole takes it all in stride.

This is her second time here, her first sentence ending in 2003. She didn’t take things too seriously back then.

“I was just trying to get through my time,” she says. It’s that kind of mindset, she says, that brought her right back in 2007.

Aged 50, Carole was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up in a musically inclined family. Her three sisters and one brother would perform songs their father had written, creating what she calls a “Jackson 5 kind of thing.” But it was never where the athletically inclined Carole’s passions lied, who preferred running track and cheerleading.

Not unlike the musical families the Bailey’s sought to imitate, Carole’s childhood was filled with sadness. Her father was abusive and she was molested at 10 by a man she respected and whose child she babysat. She didn’t tell her father, she says, because she knew he would kill the man and wind up in prison. Instead she just moved on.

Carole became pregnant with her first child in the 8th grade. Having that responsibility, she went to work for CSX Track Company as a typist after graduating from Mergenthaler Vocational school.

Not so much occupying as drifting through her native Baltimore, Carole left for Tulsa, following after her second child’s father. It was in her adopted state that her brushes with the law began.

While pregnant with her daughter Carole began shoplifting, partly because of homesickness, and partly because she “wanted Dillards stuff without (having) Dillards money.”

She soon began stealing for drug money and started dealing. She was sentenced in 1997 for Possession of Cocaine with Intent. Sentenced to Eddie Warrior for six years, she spent all of her free time drawing, becoming quite talented in the process.

After earning her freedom, Carole sought to rebuild her life. But when she found out her mother had suffered a stroke, she knew she needed to go home. Absent the funds to do so, she did what she knew best. Though this time she only dealt and didn’t partake in drugs, she was caught four weeks into it and was sentenced to 10 years in 2007.

Carole sees her second incarceration as a “blessing” because she recognizes her opportunity to better herself. She credits the various faith-based organizations, specifically the class “Shelter from the Storm” and Joyce Myers’ “Battlefield of the Mind,” with aiding her in the process.

Originally religious “only in my heart,” Carole will now leave out textbooks on her bed, hoping someone will ask while passing by and she can help them. Her philosophy now is equal parts practical and ambitious: “I want to get out of this what will get me out of here.” Good advice from a good person to know.

Hunter Cates is a sophomore majoring in film studies at TU.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Statistics About the Warrior Center Inmates

TU student Talluah Smith interviewing an inmate during a visit to the Eddie Warrior Center.

The Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center houses almost 800 women in a minimum security facility in Taft, a few miles west of Muskogee, Okla.

The prison was opened in 1988 at the site of the former Oklahoma Deaf, Blind, and Orphan Institute, which was once headed by Dr. Eddie Warrior.

The following statistics on the women at the Warrior Center were provided by Department of Corrections officials at the Center.

Eddie Warrior Center Inmate Statistics:

81 percent have children

75 percent involved in drug and non-violent crime

30 percent have no GED

71 percent report abusive relationships

33 percent report sexual abuse

29 percent report physical abuse

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Prison Audit Shows Chronic Underfunding

An outside audit of the Oklahoma prison system shows what corrections officials have said for years: the system is badly underfunded.

The audit, released in January, found the prison system to be underfunded and understaffed. The findings confirmed years of complaints by Department of Corrections officials.

Oklahoma State Treasurer Scott Meacham told the Tulsa World last month that the prison problem "is being driven by policies such as th 85 percent rule, not necessarily by crime rates."

The 85 percent rule mandates that offenders who commit certain types of crimes serve 85 percent of their sentences, a policy that keeps the prisons overcrowded.

The audit also showed that the DOC is cost-efficient, but has limited opportunities for additional savings.

DOC officials will ask the Oklahom legislature for a $28 million supplemental appropriation to finish this fiscal year, the World reported.

Scott Barger of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association told the newspaper that his organization feels vindicted by the audit.

"We've been calling on the state Legislature to provide additional funding for the Department of Corrections for 10 years now," Barger said.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Students Visit Prison to Document the Lives of Inmates

Twelve University of Tulsa students traveled to rural Oklahoma on Thursday, Feb. 7, to interview women inmates at the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center.

The prison visit was part of a journalism class called Documentary Workshop, a class designed to get students out of the classroom so that they can learn about and document the lives of Oklahomans different from themselves.

The first class project was the trip to Taft, a town of 500 about a hour's drive southeast of Tulsa that has two state prisons, the Jess Dunn Correctional Center for men, and the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, a facility that houses nearly 800 women.

The TU students spent more than two hours at the Warrior Center, interviewing inmates, visiting a dormitory, and learning about Oklahoma's correctional system.

Prof. John Coward, who organized the prison visit, hopes the project will help both the students and the inmates.

"For the students, this is an opportunity to learn about an aspect of society most people known little or nothing about," Coward said.

"For the inmates," Coward added, "this is a chance to talk about their lives and what they have experienced in and out of the legal system."

Above: TU student Jamil Malone listens to an inmate's story during a visit to the Warrior Center in Taft.

Below: Communication student Amanda Kliner talks with a prisoner at the women's prison in Taft, Okla.