Harry Olsen, Founder and Director of Projects
Harry, a Portland native, is the Founder and Director of Projects of PHOENIX Rising Transitions. He was incarcerated for a total of eight years during the 15 years between 1976 and 1991. While in prison, he worked to change his life, deepening his spiritual exploration and practices. The last time he got out (August 1991) there were hardly any programs to assist in re-entry. Fortunately, he had family support. But he envisioned doing something that would help his friends who were also coming home from prison and wanting something different. The idea of PHOENIX Rising Transitions formed as he took classes in Cultural Anthropology (Mount Hood Community College) and Decision-Making Psychology (Portland State University). It grew as he encountered the Industrial Areas Foundation model of community organizing through local affiliate, the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MACG). These strands of spirituality, scholarship and community-building led to a new paradigm of how the community can effectively respond to the complex impact of crime and incarceration on individuals, the community and society. Olsen received an Associate Degree from Mount Hood Community College (2000). He served as a volunteer chaplain in the Oregon Department of Corrections for many years and was awarded their Outstanding Citizen of the Year award for Religious Services Volunteer (2003). He is a Certified Recovery Mentor and has mentored scores of former prisoners for over 20 years. He has also worked as a community organizer and trainer since 2002.
Contact Harry: email@example.com or (503) 866-1554
Karen Meurer, Executive Director
Karen has been the Executive Director of PHOENIX since 2009. Karen served on the PHOENIX board for three years prior to joining the staff. Before moving to Oregon in 2006, she was a church relations associate at Bread for the World in Washington, DC; a director of Christian Education/Children’s and Family Minister at three United Methodist Churches in Maryland; and the Executive Director of Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity in Baltimore. She was also a campaign organizer at Partnership for Safety and Justice in Portland. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Indiana State University; a Master of Divinity from Southern Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky; and a Master of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University. She received training in community organizing from the Industrial Areas Foundation in 2005 and has served as a trainer for local MACG Leadership Institutes.
“Though not a religious organization, PHOENIX has given me an outlet for working on the social justice values that are deeply embedded in my faith.”
Contact Karen: firstname.lastname@example.org or (971) 645-0446
Board of Directors:
Joshua Wright, President
Joshua Edward Wright spent 50 months imprisoned. During that time, they were able to accomplish such things as co-found Liberation Literacy; name and co-create All Rise Magazine; and start the first Gender and Sexuality class in the Oregon Department of Corrections. They currently live in Portland and engage in education and activism, focusing on social justice and prison abolition. Joshua is currently on the Strategy Team of the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MACG).
Emily Steele, Vice President
David joined the PHOENIX board in the fall of 2015 after going into the prison each week for almost a year. He was born and raised in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at Madison, Wisconsin. He worked in medical device research for four years before deciding to stay at home with his two young sons for another four years. He then changed careers to IT and worked with enterprise software implementations in the electric utility industry for 18 years. During that time, he started meditating and exploring Buddhist spirituality and the integral theory of Ken Wilber. This gave him a passion for understanding how people see the world differently and how worldviews can change. A few years ago he and his wife moved to Portland, which created new opportunities for personal growth. At this point in his life he wants to support the major changes others want to make in their own lives, and PHOENIX Rising Transitions is a natural fit for this work.