DPSF is saddened by the death of one of our 2020/21 grantees, Ben Hall. Ben was a dedicated advocate, student, teacher, and organizer from Portland, OR. He spent over two decades in prison, during which time he became a talented writer and prison abolitionist. He was “politicized and transformed through education,” and did everything in his power to be inclusive and inviting to anyone who showed an interest in education and personal growth. He published extensively on higher education in prison programs, through Humanities journal, the MLA Handbook on Teaching Literature and Writing in Prisons, and an edited collection entitled Handbook of Research on Higher Education Accessibility Behind and Beyond Prison Walls with his long-time collaborators and mentors at Portland State University. Ben did hospice work in prison for nearly three years which he said impacted his life more than all his education combined. He was a core member of Liberation Literacy, a group that goes into prison, reads and builds community, and supports prisoners when they are released. He was also a founding editor of All Rise, a magazine that gives a platform to prisoners and other oppressed communities.
Ben was fond of nature, trees in particular. When he was finally released in April 2020 and able to be among them, he would hug and take pictures of them with the smart phone he was constantly learning how to use. Ben was devoted to lifting up those around him. He served in leadership roles, including working as a teaching assistant for college classes held at the prison. He was a poet, artist, and activist. His memories are permanent among those that read his writing or knew him, and in his honor, we continue to do our best to continue his nurturing and patient dedication to learning, creation, and world-building.
Ben was finishing his BA at Portland State University in history, social geography, and gender. In coordination with DPSF his friends and family are gathering memorial gifts to continue our work of funding student activists, including those who have been criminalized, incarcerated, or are formerly-incarcerated and working toward abolition.