SPP Bees Preparing for Winter

As the cold and rainy months appear, the SPP beekeepers are preparing to tuck the bees in for the winter.  

After a long season of sunshine and collecting pollen, the bees are starting to return to the hives for the colder months. While bees do not necessarily hibernate in the winter, they do retreat to their hives and stick closely together when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit to stay warm. Winter can be a difficult time for bees and their beekeepers. An article written by NPR, stated that in 2019, about 40% of hives did not survive the winter. The SPP beekeepers at various facilities are hard at work to protect the bees from mites, harsh temperatures, and heavy rain.  

Stafford Creek Corrections Center

Beekeepers at Stafford Creek Corrections Center are testing an insulated hive this winter. The bee club introduced the hive in September, carefully transferring bees from a wooden hive frame to a plastic insulated hive.  

The new insulated hive at SCCC by the old wooden hive. Photo by Shohei Morita.

While transferring the hive, the bee club was surprised to find that one hive was missing a Queen! The bee club conducted a detailed search of every panel and used the situation to teach new beekeepers about the signs of a missing queen and overall bee health.   

SCCC Bee Club members comb through the wooden frames looking for a Queen. Photo by Shohei Morita.

After combining two hives in the insulated hive, SCCC bee club and bees are prepared for the winter! The bees adjusted well to the new hive and are beginning to return, store honey, and cluster together for the winter.  

Cedar Creek Corrections Center

The Cedar Creek beekeepers are also busy preparing the bees for winter. The bees at McNeil Island are still bringing some colorful pollen into the hive as well as propolis from tree resins to fill any cracks in the hive before winter. 

Bees at the small entrance that Cedar Creek beekeepers will modify before winter. The bees have propolized the edge of the wood to completely seal the hive.  Photo by Laurie Pyne at McNeil Island.  

The Cedar Creek beekeepers provided additional feed and are providing ample amounts of liquid syrup to help prepare for the cooler months. As the temperature begins to get colder, the beekeepers are prepared to add a sugar brick for emergencies and to apply quilt boxes with more shavings.  

Washington Corrections Center for Women

Beekeepers at Washington Corrections Center for Women are preparing for winter by building quilt boxes and making sugar cakes. The WCCW beekeepers have four healthy hives heading into the cooler months and are currently going through twenty cups of sugar a week! 

Beehive at WCCW. Photo by SPP Staff.

 The beekeepers use cedar ships to fill the quilt boxes and are actively monitoring to prevent hornet invasion. In the coming months, the beekeepers are excited to host educational group classes while the bees cluster for the winter.  

While the bees are heading in for the winter, SPP beekeepers are headed to the hives to prepare dry, warm, and cozy environments for the coming months.  

Susan Christopher’s Lasting Impact

Text by Erica Benoit, SPP Special Projects Manager

In my final weeks working with the Sustainability in Prisons Project, I was lucky enough to interview Susan Christopher, another amazing former SPP Butterfly Technician who actually worked alongside Nichole Alexander during her time at the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW). Susan and I spoke about her experience in the SPP program, the impact she has had on other women struggling with incarceration and/or addiction, and her considerable community involvement.

Susan Christopher (right) assists another crew member in the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program. Photo by Keegan Curry.

Susan’s time in the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program represents an exceptional case in which an incarcerated person remained employed in a program for more than 3 years. This opportunity to work with the species for four total breeding seasons meant she gained extensive experience and skills that have contributed to the program’s long-term success. In particular, she and other technicians at the time developed tracking mechanisms that impressed program partners like the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Some of her other accomplishments in the program include giving a presentation to 40 biologists, taking a field trip to see the butterflies in the wild at the Glacial Heritage Preserve, and being interviewed by PBS News Hour about the program.

Susan explains the data tracking systems used in the butterfly program in front of the camera for the PBS News Hour Special. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Susan emphasized the positive impact that being in the SPP butterfly program had on her. She said, “It’s such an amazing program…what it does for our self-esteem, giving us a chance to prove ourselves again, to be trusted and appreciated. To me, it was the most important job in the institution.”

Susan Christopher shows off a Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly to SPP Staff, Emily Passarelli. Photo by SPP Staff.

It was clear from our interview that Susan also tends to have a big impact on the communities around her, whether that is in prison or her outside community. For instance, she served as a peer mentor in prison for women while they were experiencing crisis. She also volunteered in MCCCW’s clothing closet program, which provides professional clothes to women preparing to take their next steps into society. While incarcerated, she taught yoga to other incarcerated women as a therapeutic outlet. Since her release from prison, she has continued this practice with individuals who are in treatment for issues related to addiction. She also shares her story of overcoming her own addiction problems to women’s groups and church groups as a way to own her truth and give people hope.

In addition to these meaningful contributions, Susan has also dedicated her time to providing fun outlets for her community of Bremerton, Washington. While the pandemic has put a damper on many social activities, Susan wanted to find safe ways to connect with her community. With the support of city officials, she has organized numerous family friendly cruise nights and car shows around the area. You can learn more about those events by visiting the Cruisin Bremerton Facebook group.

A still of Susan Christopher welcoming visitors to a car show on September 4, 2020. Video by Canalside Photography and Stan Young.

All in all, Susan told me that over time, she realized her purpose and reason for being in prison was to make a difference in others’ lives. In total, Susan had 57 different roommates while incarcerated. For these women and hundreds of others, she has served as part of their support network both during and after incarceration. Many of them still reach out to her today to tell her how her journey has been an inspiration to them.

Susan Christopher behind the camera photographing cars at a car show. Photography has always been a passion of hers and with some encouragement from others, she has started to sell some of her work. Photo by Everett Allison.

Speaking of her journey since incarceration, Susan feels her successes are on the quiet side, but that is how she likes it. She appreciates getting messages and hugs from those who she has impacted. She said she now feels like, “I am worthy, and I do have a place in this world…It may not be standing up and winning awards, but I have a certain satisfaction now that I’ve never had before. People are watching me, looking up to me, and they appreciate me.” We at SPP see you and so appreciate you, Susan.

 

Welcoming Emily Passarelli to the SPP Team

Text by Emily Passarelli, SPP Program and Outreach Manager

Emily Passarelli, SPP Program and Outreach Manager. Photo by Aarudra Moudgalya.

Emily Passarelli is a native of Rantoul, a small rural village in East Central Illinois. Growing up in Rantoul, Emily was very active in her local community. She joined just about every community group or school club she could, but her main passion was acting in theatre. Emily participated in every one of her high school’s plays and musicals, and even arranged for an additional play to get an extra opportunity on stage her senior year. 

After high school, Emily went on to pursue her interest in theatre at Knox College in Galesburg, IL, but life had other plans for her. To earn a required science credit, Emily took Environmental Studies 101 and quickly realized she was exactly where she needed to be. This led her to become interested in how environmental issues disproportionately and consistently affect underrepresented populations. Emily then decided to double major in both Theatre and Environmental Studies.

After graduating from Knox in 2015, Emily began to pursue her Master of Environmental Studies (MES) degree at The Evergreen State College. Before arriving in Olympia, Washington, Emily accepted a position as the Green Track Coordinator at The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP). In this position, she coordinated the Roots of Success program and was the first coordinator to work on the Beekeeping program. One of her favorite moments was helping plan the first Beekeeping Summit at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in 2017. She also appreciated the opportunity to visit 11 of 12 Washington State prisons, as well as McNeil Island, and experience the distinctly different cultures of each facility. SPP helped Emily find her passion for developing and maintain partnerships with some of the most interesting and passionate people she’s ever met!

Emily Passarelli gazes at Oregon Spotted frogs before they are released back to the pond. Photo by SPP staff.

While in MES, Emily studied subjects such as Traditional Ecological Restoration and Environmental Education, and researched how a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest would affect different populations. Her time at SPP also inspired her to focus her graduate thesis on the lasting effects of environmental education on formerly incarcerated individuals. The results of this research showed even more evidence to support the transformative effect of environmental education in prisons.

Emily Passarelli and fellow MES Cohort members, Melanie Graeff and Liliana Caughman (also former SPP coordinator), at their graduation ceremony in 2017. Photo by Allison Diamond.

Once Emily completed her time at MES and SPP, she felt compelled to continue her work in corrections education however she could. Emily then took on the role of Education Program Coordinator at The Washington Corrections Center (WCC) through Centralia College. After two years working inside WCC in this role, Emily was promoted to Program Manager. She has loved the opportunity to work closely with DOC staff, custody, and leadership, support and expand all types of education for students, plan graduation events to celebrate student success, and work with the wonderful Education Department team at WCC. 

Emily Passarelli GED Testing at the Washington Corrections Center in 2020. Photo by Aundrea Lund.

After 3 years at WCC, Emily has now returned to the SPP team as the new Program and Outreach Manager. She’s still pinching herself to make sure she’s not dreaming! Emily is so grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to see what the future holds. In her free time, Emily loves spending time with her husband and sweet, shivery chihuahua.

Emily and her chihuahua Penny. Photo by Aarudra Moudgalya.

Highlighting the Many Successes of Nichole Alexander

Text by Erica Benoit, SPP Special Projects Manager.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Nichole Alexander, former SPP Butterfly Technician, on the 2-year anniversary of her release from the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW). We spoke briefly about the impact of her SPP experience on her trajectory post-release, and even more about her long list of accomplishments in the last two years, including her graduation from Evergreen Tacoma.

Nichole Alexander presents on the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program to a working group in 2018. Photo by SPP staff.

Nichole, pictured above, spent three seasons in the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program at MCCCW before she released in April 2019. She said the most impactful part of her experience with SPP was the opportunity to work within a tight-knit team of individuals and across federal and state agencies, an experience in which she felt respected and valued. She also spoke to the therapeutic benefits of the program. Speaking of some major life events that happened while she was incarcerated, Nichole said,

“Being able to go out to the butterfly lab every day…the routine of being able to be in a work environment, an educational environment, to actually feel like we are giving back to the community, bettering myself and laying the foundation for my future, my kids’ future, was huge to pull me through some of the worst times that I have been through…I was actually able to find a light within myself in a very dark place.”

In addition, Nichole expressed that her experience with SPP laid the foundation for what she would accomplish next. In particular, she credits Kelli Bush, SPP Co-Director and Keegan Curry, former SPP Butterfly Coordinator, for providing the encouragement and support to apply to the Evergreen State College’s Tacoma campus while still incarcerated to attend post-release. In her opinion, they reminded her that she had potential.

Nichole Alexander and fellow technician Susan Christopher search for wild Taylor’s checkerspot larvae at Scatter Creek Wildlife Area, a reintroduction site for the butterfly. Photo by Keegan Curry.

She then jumped straight into finishing up her last quarter to earn her Associates Degree in Business Administration and Management from Tacoma Community College before starting her Law and Policy degree at Evergreen Tacoma. While pursuing higher education, she has also been heavily involved in giving back to the community. She organized a book drive for the youth residing at the Echo Glen Children’s Center and also worked with World Central Kitchen to provide thousands of meals to the homeless population. Professionally, she has worked for Ventures nonprofit as the Ready for Release Coordinator & Instructor. In this position, she briefly taught business & marketing to the incarcerated women at MCCCW before the program was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, her professional endeavors focus strongly on providing support resources for the unsheltered population around Seattle. She works for REACH as their Waterfront Outreach Care Coordinator, as well as JustCARE’s Street Outreach Program Coordinator. But her work does not stop when she goes home, as she has worked hard to connect her academic studies with the practical reality of what she has witnessed through her jobs.

Nichole handing out meals with World Central Kitchen, while representing the organization she works for, REACH.

Nichole has now successfully completed her undergraduate coursework at Evergreen Tacoma and is set to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Policy. She speaks highly of the support she received while attending Evergreen and said she cannot praise it enough for how welcoming they were to her. She especially appreciates the patience and support from some influential professors, like Dr. Gilda Sheppard and Dr. Anthony Zaragoza, and essential support staff as she navigated challenges related to re-entering society. Even more, she emphasizes the sense of community gained there. It’s clear that she made the most of her community involvement at Evergreen Tacoma; she helped start the Justice Involved Student Group there. She also spoke excitedly about her dedication and involvement in organizing Evergreen Tacoma’s virtual graduation ceremony in 2020, which was featured in a New York Times article. It was important for her and her fellow coordinators to go out of their way to make the graduates feel that their success was seen and celebrated. To do this, they organized custom gift boxes from a local party supply company, local flower bouquets, and family meals prepared by local restaurants for each of the graduates. The emphasis on supporting local businesses in this effort was especially needed in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. We only hope she is able to feel the same sense of accomplishment at her own graduation ceremony.

Nichole is not planning to slow down anytime soon. She was recently accepted into the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, a recent expansion to the Evergreen Tacoma campus. Nichole plans to start that program this coming fall. She also communicated her plans to address issues within the carceral environment, including efforts to reduce recidivism and connect incarcerated mothers with their children. While incarcerated, Nichole helped organize the annual Girl Scout Beyond Bars (GSBB) sleepover to visit their moms at MCCCW. In particular, she helped connect the visiting girl scouts (including her own daughter) with the SPP butterfly program where they got to participate in fun activities that helped them earn badges! She continues to be a GSBB troop leader and expresses the importance of these opportunities in connecting girls impacted by incarceration with their mothers. In addition, WA Corrections recently featured Nichole and her daughter in a story about the importance of parent teacher teleconferences, a hopeful sign for future endeavors related to this effort.

Nichole shows her daughter, Brooklyn, around the SPP Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program at MCCCW. She said it was so fun to bring her daughter to work because she had the coolest job in the world!

Speaking of the differences in her journey before and after incarceration, Nichole said “If you hear my history, for that person there’s no hope…Then to sit in the meetings that I sit in…and to work with the people that I work with today, there’s no ceiling. It’s unstoppable where you can be and how you can give back.” With that outlook, we know there are many more great things in store for Nichole Alexander, as well as those her life and work impacts.

Adapting During Challenging Times: a Check-In from SPP

By Erica Benoit, SPP Special Projects Manager and Kelli Bush, SPP Co-Director

We at SPP are all deeply aware of how difficult this past year has been. It has been especially hard for the people living and working in prisons. We acknowledge the loss and suffering experienced by incarcerated people, their families, and corrections staff.  Our thoughts are with our fellow humans everywhere—may we all have better days ahead.

Like many organizations, SPP has also faced a slew of competing challenges. Over the past year we have shifted to working remotely, navigated major staffing changes resulting in a smaller team size, and supported multiple team members through health issues. We are continually processing the overall health and safety impacts of COVID-19 and loss of in-person interaction with students, partners, and our small team at Evergreen. Despite these challenges, we are hopeful for better horizons. We are reaching out to share how SPP is making the best use of these challenging times; we are simultaneously practicing patience and resilience every day.

Human health and safety are our top priority over program operation. As a result, the vast majority of SPP programs have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are still supporting operation of a few programs, but only where interactions with SPP staff can be masked, socially distant, primarily outside, and with access to proper resources for hand washing and cleaning high touch surfaces. Programs which have continued under these circumstances and in accordance with approved COVID plans include the prairie conservation nursery at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW), the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW), and a few peer-led education programs at various facilities.

Keegan Curry from SPP safely helps out with the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program at MCCCW. Photo by Marisa Pushee. 

Despite major program suspensions, SPP staff have still been hard at work on projects in three main focus areas: remote education, proposal development, and policy/guidance work. We hope that the behind-the-scenes work done in these areas will have lasting benefits when programs are able to safely restart. Brief details on some specific projects (most still in progress) are provided below.

Remote Education

Beekeeping

  • Curation and delivery of monthly educational packets to all facilities
  • Development of higher-level beekeeping certification (in progress)

Peer-led Gardening Curriculum

Ecology Curriculum

Prairie Conservation Nursery

  • Standardizing education materials and adapting for remote access (i.e. remote presentations, limited contact education, and/or peer-led components)

Peer-led Composting Curriculum

  • Identifying funding and planning for development of curriculum for statewide use

Solar Energy Education

  • New partnership with Olympia Community Solar that allows donors to sponsor solar energy education packets to be sent to prison facilities

Proposal Development

Funding

  • Provided budget for potential new education and training program in partnership with WA Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Developed and submitted a funding proposal to complete the next phases of gardening and composting course and to pilot in another state
  • Developed and submitted a funding proposal to expand Evergreen education in prisons

Planning and Organization Improvements

  • Improving processes and guidance related to development of education materials
  • Developed new SPP program planning templates to improve operations and clarity among partners
  • Identifying more reliable mechanisms for delivering remote education
  • Developed general partnership resource document for guiding all types of successful prison programs among multiple partners (in progress)

Policy/Guidance Work

  • Tracking and testifying in support of HB1044 Pathways to Post-Secondary Education in Prisons
  • Working with Washington Department of Corrections and education organizations to develop policy and guidelines for successful peer-led programs in prison (in progress)
  • Working with The Evergreen State College to draft new policy to that will support granting college credit to currently incarcerated program participants successfully completing SPP certificated internship programs
  • Research to address barriers limiting access to fresh produce in prison and considering development of food handling education to improve ability for prison kitchens to utilize fresh produce from facility gardens (longer-term project)

Lastly, we are actively drafting our latest Annual Report, which is expected to be published sometime in spring. Be on the lookout for this report for full updates regarding SPP programs and initiatives from July 2019 through December 2020.

Learning so much from MES & SPP

By Carly Boyd, SPP Butterfly Program Coordinator

I first heard about the Evergreen State College as a junior in high school. Unfortunately, I quickly decided it wasn’t possible to attend; no one (not even me!) was ready for me to move across the country from Maryland to Washington State.

Carly and her fiancé hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park in CO while visiting her best friend in Denver.

Instead, I attended a state school in western Maryland. I graduated in 2018 with a biology degree and plans to get my Master’s. When I realized Evergreen has a Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program, it felt like a second chance for me

I was working and living with my fiancé and pet cat Kiwi in Virginia. To take that second chance, I moved to a state where I knew no one. Not once have I been afraid or worried that I had made the wrong choice.

During my first year at Evergreen, what I have learned about people and how the world works has been invaluable and so different from the education I received in Maryland. I expect my time with SPP as the Butterfly Program Coordinator will be just as surprising and important.

Left: Carly holds a wild saw-whet owl; she participated in a long-term research project called Project Owlnet. Right: During her time working for Virginia State Parks, Carly holds a blind, one-winged barred owl who helped with environmental education programs.

Before SPP, I have worked with people from all walks of life and I’ve learned so much from those experiences. The most valuable skill I’ve gained is versatility: being prepared and able to change my approach to better suit whoever I’m working with. Already, this skill is serving me well in the SPP butterfly program. Efforts to keep everyone in the program safe amidst the COVID-19 crisis requires a lot of adaptation.

It is often difficult to start a new job and this one brings the challenge of a completely new environment for me. On top of that, as a part of an utterly changed world, I need to scrutinize my every action for safety, especially when working with an at-risk population. I recognize that I have to hold some responsibility for the technicians’ safety and health. At the same time, I hold some responsibility for keeping the program going as long as we are able; the technicians deserve to continue the work they value.

Most of Carly’s photos are of her loved ones, pets, and nature. Here is rare picture with her in it! enjoying her exploration of Juneau, Alaska while there visiting family.

As a program and as an organization, we remain open to change. We continue to discuss the best and safest way to move forward for everyone involved.

Working with incarcerated individuals is changing me as a person. It’s very different from the work I’ve done in the past and honestly very different from what I ever saw myself doing. It is an unexpected opportunity that forces me to rethink what I am able to do professionally. My perceptions of the prison system and the incarcerated individuals inside are shifting. The position is helping me to rethink what I’m capable of and what I want to dedicate my life to.

In the bigger picture, working with SPP reinforces what I know and who I am. I believe humans are resilient and that, deep down, we all have a passion to learn and to contribute to a deeper collective. Also, I think we have an innate desire to be close to nature, in whatever way we can. Even in such a time of uncertainty and fear, I want to help our incarcerated partners connect with nature… so long as they, and we, are comfortable making it possible.

Stafford Creek bee program teaches itself

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager

In early July 2020, Apprentice beekeeping student DeShan and Journeyman beekeeper Charles Roark check the health of a hive in the Stafford Creek Corrections Center program.

When the pandemic made it impossible for expert beekeepers from the outside community to visit, the program at Stafford Creek Corrections Center found a way to teach itself.

For a few years, the beekeeping program has been well-supported by a visiting expert who could deliver Washington State Beekeepers Association’s courses and certifications. From late in 2017 to summer 2019, beekeeper Duane McBride awarded Beginner certificates to 4 staff members and 76 incarcerated individuals and Apprentice certificates to 8 staff and 58 incarcerated beekeepers!

Stafford Creek’s bee club moved the hives to a warmer, drier site that easily can be seen by all visitors to the main prison campus.

During the past winter, building on that impressive foundation, the Stafford Creek program formed its own bee club and made plans to relocate their hives to a warmer, drier site.

At the same time, they gained a resident Journeyman beekeeper, Charles Roark; he had just transferred from Airway Heights Corrections Center (home of another amazing bee program). Apprentice beekeeper Rory had served as an assistant instructor in Duane’s last class. Supported by Bee Program Liaison Kelly Peterson, Charles and Rory joined forces to continue the education and certification program.

Apprentice students David Duhaime and David Lewis study and admire a worker bee perched on Lewis’ glove.

Together, they mentored Apprentice students in small groups, repeating each class three times so that every student could learn the same content and practice hands-on, all while keeping socially distanced. It was wonderful to hear that all partners — instructors, students, and the bees — thrived in the program. At the end of one session, a student said that it was his best day ever at the prison.

That magic was still alive when I visited the program in early July. Rory introduced the program by saying, “May I brag about our beekeeping program?” I was so glad he did! He was hardly the only one; there was a lot to be proud of. Ms. Peterson told us, “I don’t have to stress about this program…you guys are so good at it.”

I found many honeybees in the nearby garden beds — see that worker bee in the center of a big daisy?

They started the flight season with only two hives and had quickly grown the population to fill seven! The beekeepers told me about the character and quality of each queen and her hive and shared all kinds of observations. I was so pleased to see them in their element, showing the teamwork, creativity, and gentle respect that are the best parts of SPP’s bee programs.

On a frame of healthy bees,, you can see many different colors of flower pollen stored in the cells; these food stores are called “bee bread.”

To learn more about bee programs that endure during the pandemic, I recommend these articles:
Like honeybees, we are working together

Welcoming the bees back to WCC

The The Buzz About Honey Bees

When crisis inspires greater teamwork

Text by Marisa Pushee, Joslyn Rose Trivett, and Kelli Bush
Photos by Marisa Pushee

In these unprecedented times, we are adapting to meet the new needs of the community we serve. This has meant suspending the majority of in-person programs in favor of remote education.

Early in the pandemic, following the general pattern, the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Program partners suspended the program. But then, partners asked Could it be possible to restart? Everyone agreed that human health and safety had to be the top priority. Also, we heard from the Washington Department of Fish & WildlifeMission Creek Corrections Center staff, and incarcerated technicians that the program was very important to them. They asked that we problem-solve together, to collaborate on figuring out if there was any combination of rules and protocols that would allow for a re-start.

Technician Erin Hart works in one of the greenhouses, following best practices by wearing a face mask, social distancing, and implementing extensive cleaning protocols.

Following all COVID-19 safety protocols, we met several times and discussed a potential restart. Prison staff demonstrated that they were eager to prioritize the health and safety of the incarcerated technicians, willing to adapt program practices, and could support increased remote communication as SPP-Evergreen limited our prison visits. Technicians requested the program be restarted and expressed that, in the program space, they felt a reduced risk of contracting the disease. The lead wildlife biologist agreed that operations must be contingent on new protocols to reduce human health risks.

An adult Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly rests in an oviposition pot where she will lay her eggs.

Ultimately, all partners agreed that the program could re-start with new safety protocols in place. A key element of the re-start plan was to continuously reevaluate program safety, to ask each other regularly and often what could be done to make it safer and, most importantly, was it really safe enough.

The butterflies came back to Mission Creek. Social distancing, masking, and disinfection protocols were meticulously followed. Commitment to safety and open communications were fulfilled. The rearing season was successful for the butterflies and for the people involved.

Butterfly program coordinator Keegan Curry holds a rearing enclosure called an oviposition pot (a Plantago plant with a net over it) near the back door of a greenhouse.

The Healing Garden

Compiled by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager, informed by Chad Naugle, Sustainability Programs Manager, Oregon Department of Corrections

There’s definitely a transition, not only among the adults in custody, but the staff as well, how we’re starting to be more pro-social, how we are starting to work together, not against each other. Now we are standing beyond anything we thought a healing garden could do.

Toshio Takanubo, President of the Asian Pacific Family Club
A flower blooms in the Healing Garden’s koi pond. Photo from Oregon Department of Corrections.

Back in 2014, Johnny Cofer, Project Coordinator for the Asian Pacific Family Club, suggested a koi pond to the Superintendent of Oregon State Penitentiary. Superintendent Brandon Kelly asked Cofer to write up a proposal and the plan for a healing garden at the prison was born. Kelly considered the plan and saw the promise in it; so long as safety and security needs could be met, “maybe this could precipitate change.” Still, paying for the project seemed a formidable hurdle.

Sunlight shines on a pink bloom. Photo from Oregon Department of Corrections.

The Asian Pacific Family Club found ways to raise funds that covered the entire project; no taxpayer money had to be spent on the garden. The club started working with Japanese garden designer Hoichi Kurisu to further develop and refine their plan. Once the project was in motion, many people asked to help, excited to be a part of it.

Plans became reality in the fall of 2019. They had raised more than $500,000 in funding and in-kind donations and nearly 200 incarcerated adults had volunteered to help build the garden. The finished product was beautiful. To learn more about the project, we recommend two media pieces:

Capital Community Media‘s film about the garden took first place in the 2020 Hometown Media Awards, Cultural Perspective category

NBC New’s article from October 2019.

This screenshot is from an NBC News article. Johnny Cofer, pictured, is quoted as saying, “There’s no Google maps to restoration and redemption, you have to forge your own way.”

“Here at the penitentiary, we are changing the world one interaction at a time.”

Tonya Gushard, staff member at the Penitentiary

Workshops in the COVID-19 Era

Text and photos by Erica Benoit, SPP Workshop Series Coordinator

Unfortunately, the Environmental Workshop Series may be facing the greatest impact of all SPP programs due to COVID-19. While we are proud of the programs’ large crowds, we know that the coronavirus thrives in such environments. In an effort to protect our incarcerated and staff partners, the workshop series has been temporarily paused at all facilities. It is our goal to resume the regular workshop schedule and reschedule canceled workshops once it is safe to do so again.

Just before the shut-down, Fawn Harris brought Princess Remington back to prison.

As a part of our efforts to adapt and evolve, we are also test-driving a remote workshop learning plan at Stafford Creek Corrections Center so workshop students can continue to earn credit towards their workshop certificates. Beginning this month (May 2020), in lieu of in-person workshops, students will be able to watch videos on a specific environmental topic through an in-facility TV channel. In addition to viewing the selected videos, students will be required to reflect on what they learned in writing. Submitting this assignment will earn the equivalent of 1 regular workshop credit. Depending on the success of the remote learning plan, it may be expanded to additional facilities.

Still, we miss the workshops and the in-person interaction and knowledge gained from them. So, please enjoy these images of the last few in-person workshops we had in late February and early May.

Raptors of the Pacific Northwest, Workshop on March 6 at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW)

Fawn Harris and Michael William Etgen are from West Sound Wildlife Shelter. Fawn used to coordinate one of SPP’s conservation nurseries and she facilitates wonderful workshops! (A photo of her and Princess Remington is at the top of this story.)

An Introduction to Permaculture, Workshop on February 20 at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC)

Sheilia Canada led a workshop on a sustainable living system that supplies all the needs of humanity while it benefits all creatures on Earth.

Hard to imagine when a class this size will feel safe again.
Following an in-class brainstorm session, a student shares with the class how he applied the zonal model of permaculture to an everyday life scenario.

Climate Crisis Solutions: Healthy Soils & Food Forests, Workshop on February 26 at Washington Corrections Center (WCC)

Julianne Gale, Zephyr Elise, and James Landreth from Mason County Climate Justice led a session on healthy soils and food forests as a potential solution to the climate crisis.