Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) began informally in 2003. Individuals from The Evergreen State College and Washington State Department of Corrections wanted to bring science, education, and nature into prison, and their overlapping interests became SPP. (See our History page for the story.)
Today, the SPP is a statewide effort with programs in all 12 prisons in Washington State. Sustainable operations and a more productive and positive prison culture have allowed cost avoidance estimated at $4.3 million annually (that figure from 2012). We offer programming in five areas: 1. ecological conservation, 2. environmental education, 3. sustainable operations, 4. community contributions, and 5. biophilia. We also track and evaluate contributions from each program. With the expansion, it has become more important to define the SPP approach. Our experience points to five Essential Components: these are the unifying principles that guide our work.
SPP has been a collaborative effort from the beginning, and we see partnerships as central to our success. The original partnership between The Evergreen State College (Evergreen) and Washington State Department of Corrections (Washington DOC) remains the foundation of all we do, both in Washington and for the SPP Network. The partnership is strengthened by SPP’s co-directorship: Dr. Carri LeRoy is a member of the faculty at Evergreen, and Steve Sinclair is Assistant Secretary for Washington DOC. The two organizations share in initiating new programs, collaborating with partners, supervising inmate technicians, and disseminating SPP outreach materials and resources. SPP staff at Evergreen and DOC work together daily and at every level of our operations.
Nearly every SPP program also calls upon the expertise and support of additional partners. Key partners include (for details on each organization’s involvement with SPP, please click on the link):
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- The Center for Natural Lands Management
- Joint Base Lewis-McChord
- Oregon Zoo
- Woodland Park Zoo
- Wolf Haven International
- Prairie Plant Conservation partners (including Whidbey-Camano Land Trust, Friends of Puget Prairies, and Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship)
- Roots of Success
- Institute for Applied Ecology
Each of these organizations collaborates closely with SPP on one or more programs and adds to our expertise, funding resources, connections to the community, and the reach of our programs.
SPP also works with numerous smaller community and conservation organizations: local humane societies that partner on prison dog programs; sheriff’s offices that provide unclaimed bikes for bicycle restoration programs; food banks that accept prison-grown produce; university extension offices that provide training and certification, and volunteer groups that work with SPP on achieving conservation goals.
For our education and evaluation programming, we partner with numerous individuals and institutions. We welcome guest lecturers from numerous colleges, universities, land management agencies, conservation organizations, and small businesses (see a partial list). Our evaluations work has called on the expertise and input of faculty and researchers from University of Washington, Washington State University, University of Utah, and University of Denver.
As SPP has transformed into a statewide endeavor, our partnerships reach across the country and internationally. We have had inquiries from more than twenty states and several countries wanting to replicate SPP’s model. In September, 2012, the nascent SPP Network had its first meeting in Olympia, Washington. The same teams rejoined in Salt Lake City, Utah in March, 2013, and showed impressive progress and plans for the future. SPP-Washington and Utah’s Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE) are working together to shape the Network’s offerings, funding, administration, and future. To contribute or get involved, please get in touch!