Carole Pope Oral History Project

Carole Pope

“Every time that someone talks about Our New Beginnings and passes on the core belief that values the women whom this program served, the program never dies, never goes away.” (Interview, 2000)

About Carole Pope

Social innovator and activist Carole Pope changed the lives of 3,500 women and children through Our New Beginnings, a Portland-based residential and outreach program she created and ran for women offenders from 1980 to 1992. Her visionary thinking and her belief that the women she served could turn their lives around with the proper assistance convinced many initial skeptics in the legal and law enforcement communities.

After Carole passed away in 2013, her papers were donated to the Portland State University Library. By gathering critical first-person perspectives, the Carole Pope Oral History Project will build upon that collection to create an invaluable resource that offers a road map for those striving to create meaningful alternatives to incarceration for women.

Why Her Legacy Matters

Carole maintained that thinking outside the (prison) box saves both lives and money. From a taxpayer’s perspective, the price of incarcerating women is not limited to the cost of the prison cell and three meals a day. Locking up women also means paying the tab for putting their children in foster care, treating physical and mental health conditions exacerbated by their incarceration, and providing public assistance and shelter for those who are homeless and destitute upon release.1

The needs addressed by Our New Beginnings still challenge us, perhaps now more than ever. The following statistics underscore the importance of keeping the legacy of Carole’s work alive:

  • Between 1980 and 2010, the number of women in prison increased by 646%, 1.5 times the rate of men.2
  • The number of children with incarcerated mothers more than doubled from 1991 to 2011. 2
  • More than 6 in 10 mothers reported living with their children just prior to incarceration.2
  • Up to 85% of children of incarcerated mothers will offend as juveniles and end up in prison themselves.3

How You Can Help

The objective of this project is to complete at least twenty in-depth interviews with the individuals directly impacted by the work of Carole Pope and Our New Beginnings. Thanks to donor generosity, we have begun our initial interviews. With your help, we can fulfill our goal to create a unique and powerful resource for all those inspired to build upon Carole’s legacy of support for incarcerated women and their families.

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1 Frost, N., J. Greene, and K. Pranis. (2006) Hard Hit: The Growth in the Imprisonment of Women, 1977-2004.  New York: Institute on Women & Criminal Justice, Women’s Prison Association.
2 Glaze,L. and Maruschak, L. (2010) Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
3 Amnesty International. (1999 )USA: Rights for all: “Not part of my sentence”: Violations of the Human Rights of Women in Custody.  AI Index: AMR 51/001/1999.