Incarcerated men at Oregon State Penitentiary Collect Donations For Flint, MI

"Even though we are incarcerated, we still care about the community.”

A group of incarcerated men at the Oregon State Penitentiary raised $800 for the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. Inspired by their efforts, Dream Corps raised a matching donation in support of the organization's work in Flint. Thank you to all who helped raise a matching donation in support of the incarcerated men at Oregon State Penitentiary and the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. 

When a group of incarcerated men at the Oregon State Penitentiary learned about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan that had exposed thousands of residents to contamination, they were shocked and impacted by the stories of families subjected to using polluted water.

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                                          From left to right: D’Angelo Turner, Jeremy Hays, Troy Ramsey, Grover Clegg

"I was sitting on my bunk in my cell watching TV. Flipping channels. I saw people on the Steve Harvey show talking about how they couldn’t shower with the tap water," said Troy Ramsey who initiated the fundraiser. "I thought, ‘What can I do from where I’m at to help the Flint community?” 

With the necessary approvals needed to begin collecting donations, a group convened to devise a plan to raise money to the Flint community. Hoping to raise $500, the group was able to raise $800 for Flint with the generous $1, $2, and $5 donations from inmates.

“These are not small donations,” explained Ramsey. “ The average income for inmates is about $49 per month, and we have to use that for all our hygiene items, foods, etc.  A lot of the guys also have obligations to kids and families.”

In an interview with the Dream Corps, Kosal So, who helped Ramsey organize the Flint fundraising efforts, reflected on his own journey and how his experiences influence the work he does from within the prison.

“I was kicked out of school. I didn’t learn to read. We lose confidence and get wrapped up in the streets. I was in and out of the juvenile system. Once you are in that, you are stuck. Now I work to raise money for kids to go to college.”

Like So, other incarcerated men also use the examples of their own lives as a vehicle for change in their communities and society.

“Just because I’m incarcerated doesn’t change morals and values. I used to deliver food to the homeless on Thanksgiving,” said Grover Clegg who helped lead fundraising efforts. “I drove a truck for a freight company and would use that to drive around on Thanksgiving to deliver food”

Though making donations may not be easy for inmates, fundraising is not new to this group who frequently engage in efforts that contribute to a variety of issues.

“I have been involved in a number of efforts,” said D’Angelo Turner another leader in the Flint fundraiser. “ I have written a re-entry program. I raised money for Missus Harris who was diagnosed with orphans disease – cancer – back in 2005 or 2007.”

Incarcerated men involved with the fundraiser noted that it is these efforts that cross racial groups bringing together groups typically segregated based on race.

“Our effort cut across racial groups,” said fundraiser leader Eric Nitschke. “ There are cliques in prison. This fundraiser was also helping people unite across groups and begin to break this down.”

Nitschke added, “I couldn’t believe that we in America could do this to our people. I learned about the change [of drinking water source] from the lake to the river.  They knew it was polluted.  It shocked me that someone who wasn’t drinking the water made that decision.”

This story of incarcerated men at Oregon State Penitentiary organizing a fundraiser to benefit victims of the Flint water crisis lives at the intersection of environmental and criminal  justice, which hits close to home for the Dream Corps and our initiatives.

Here at the Dream Corps, we support economic, environmental and criminal justice innovators. We serve to uplift powerful voices of those impacted by the criminal justice system--like this group of incarcerated men--and ensure that we are working towards an inclusive green economy.

We are deeply inspired by this effort. To support the efforts of the incarcerated men at Oregon State Penitentiary, the Dream Corps has committed to raising a matching donation of $800 for the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. Help us raise matching funds for every child, family, and business in the community of Flint affected by the water crisis.