I am of my parents. They raised me to:
• be critically curious
• seek out play
• trust myself
• be connected to my emotions
• deeply yearn for justice
• love well
• create things
special thanks to my mother.
I'm Althea –
& collaborator in community
I want you to know that I'm a poet. I first started writing poems as a young kid trying to understand deep grief. I found that poetry allowed me to develop language, communicate with myself, play in the abstract, explore through time, & spin on what's possible. I've played with myself as poet in many ways over the years & always fantasized about a life in which I could be a poet every day. What held me back was a long held fear that poetry was so personal it was indulgent, especially in the face of urgent justice work I could be doing instead. I finally came to understand just how revolutionary poetry is, and in fact, how essential it is to resistance. Starting in 2020, I've taken the work of poetry seriously, integrating writing time into my calendar with intention. You can read about my quarterly retreats here. You can read my poems here. You can stay posted on my upcoming book by subscribing to my newsletter.
I'm also deeply invested in prisoner liberation & reimagining what justice looks like. I've been involved in social justice work since middle school. I've specifically been doing criminal justice and prison justice work for a little over a decade. In 2015 a dear friend and I founded Criminal Defense Support Services, LLC where I worked as a mitigation investigator, investigation team leader, and and ran the business until we moved under the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC) umbrella. I now work full time in the Youth Justice Project of OJRC advocating for those who committed violent crimes as children and are serving life sentences in the adult prison system. I also have the pleasure of continuing to train and lead our investigation team, currently made up of all women – a really different scene than I started in 6 years ago.
My work in the world is to hold and resource people as they try to reclaim themselves from the harm of the criminal justice system; that includes currently and formerly incarcerated folks, those that love currently and formerly incarcerated folks, those we call “victims” in our culture of binary, and folks that seem to have only systemic connection and yet are being hurt, too.
The simplest way to describe what I "do" is to call it prisoner liberation work. The central questions that guide my work come from transformative justice and liberation praxis – what needs to happen to get free? What harm has occurred and what needs to happen in order to prevent harm in the future? How did the harm happen in the first place? Now how do we move toward freedom?
My work is for anyone looking to confront the harm of our criminal legal system.
I'm happy to be your accomplice.
Tangibly, my work is parole preparation, story telling, hope-holding, grief recovery, clemency support, appeals level investigation, systemic advocacy, coaching, a lot of reading and learning, post-prison resourcing, community education, and a whole lot of anger and imagining.
I also spend a lot of time over on Instagram (@altheais) sharing my process of figuring out how to work in the criminal justice system while also deeply rejecting nearly everything about it, being harmed by it, watching it harm everyone I encounter – incarcerated people, correctional officers, attorneys, those harmed by crime, family members, loved ones... everyone – I write a lot about my reckoning with freedom and sovereignty, grief, my obligations outside of my job to keep myself safe while not causing harm to others, prison, trauma and attachment, neurodivergence, healthy relationships, and meaningful connection.
In the near future I will also have more substantive offerings for you! I'm currently working on...
• workshops! one for healers, coaches, and self-employed folks to identify where they can consider and serve incarcerated community members without doing a whole bunch of new stuff. And, a workshop for anyone reckoning with their discomfort and concerns about radical criminal justice reform (aka how to get the cop out of your head). Stay tuned via my newsletter!
• A whole book! I am in the process of putting together a book in honor of my 30th trip around the sun. It's a really playful and serious conversation with each of my selves over the years of life as poetry, prose, and images. It's to specific selves, to friends, to all my ages. To all your ages. I did a lot of the heavy lifting in a bathtub.
My latest poem is Strange/Estrange. You can read it here.
The poem that made me want to start sharing with y'all is this one, Astral Bodies.