March 6-8, 2019
University of San Diego
avatar for Deborah Smith Arthur

Deborah Smith Arthur

Portland State University
2019 Engaged Scholar Award Recipient
Deborah Smith Arthur, JD., is a vigorous and steadfast advocate for youth justice and for promoting educational access for people who are incarcerated and formerly incarcerated. Her teaching at Portland State University over the past 15 years has revolved around community based learning inside youth detention facilities. Through her courses, about one thousand PSU students have had the opportunity to work and study with people experiencing incarceration. Simultaneously, hundreds of incarcerated people have accessed education through these courses. In addition to her teaching, Smith Arthur has been a volunteer with the Oregon Youth Authority for over a decade. She has worked on numerous clemency petitions, several of them successful. She is currently working on development of the Reverse the {school to prison} Pipeline program (RTP) at PSU. The RTP seeks to recognize, engage and support talented high school and adult learners who are at risk of, are currently experiencing or have experienced incarceration, to create access to higher education and to offer support in achieving academic, personal and financial success. Through the RTP, PSU students partner with educational systems inside juvenile detention, providing individualized, adaptive learning. Development of a pre-bac certificate program for women at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility is underway, as well on campus support at PSU for formerly incarcerated students. Her engagement across campus to forward these initiatives, and her outreach and partnership with multiple local and state agencies, is robust. On a national level, Smith Arthur is a 2018-2019 Child Defender Fellow with the Children’s Defense Fund