The Effects of Believing

by Cyril Walrond, Roots of Success Instructor and Master Trainer

“…All things are possible to him that believes.” Mark 9:23

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Cyril Walrond, Roots of Success instructor speaking at the class graduation ceremony in 2014. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Teaching the Roots of Success environmental literacy curriculum here at Stafford Creek has been not only a blessing to my life but has also been an enriching privilege and honor. To teach this 10-module course in a classroom without any correctional staff, administration, or outside volunteers to sponsor it is unprecedented in the Department of Corrections. Daily it is just me and my two co-workers Grady Mitchell and David Duhaime in our classroom teaching a class of 20-30 eager incarcerated students.

They told us it could not be done, but we are doing it. They doubted that there would be any interest, but we have become one of the most sought after programs among the men at the facility. They thought that the material might be too difficult or challenging, we said let’s challenge them. Now, nearly 2 1/2 years later, we have graduated 8 classes and over 200 students. How was this done?… Through believing!

It is only through believing that we can make a difference that we can then impact our students. It is only through instilling this belief in our students, that they have something to contribute to this world, that they began to care about how they have impacted their environment and how they will impact it into the future. Looking beyond their present pain and into the future possibilities.

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A look at over 50 students graduating from the Roots of Success program at Stafford Creek. Photo by Tiffany Webb.

My co-workers and I met frequently before our first class and agreed that if we did not believe in ourselves, this curriculum, and then each other, our students would never believe in us, this curriculum, or themselves. Now we are seeing the effects of our believing on the lives of not inmates, not convicts, not offenders, but on once-broken men who are now on a conquest to make a difference as they repair their lives.

Many of our students came into class with a warped self-image. Programmed to think that prison was inevitably predestined for their lives and that this is what they were being groomed for from the time they were conceived. We assure them these lies have conditioned them to the point of complacency, stagnation, and then finally acceptance. This place of acceptance is the realm in which many of them dwell, after having accepted their plight. However, they are made for more!

This is why one of my students, who we call Radio, really touched my heart when he personally thanked me at the conclusion of this class’s graduation. “Sir, thank you. You pushed me when I did not want to move. You challenged me when I felt like giving up. You believed in me when I did not believe in myself. Even when I thought my future was hopeless, you quoted to me several times Jeremiah 29:11.”

Radio is just one of many success stories that the 3 of us laugh and joke about when times get hard and our patience may be running thin with our students. (Trust me, anyone who has ever taught knows what I mean.) But we never get discouraged by the uphill battle. We press on and continue to believe that what we are accomplishing is much bigger than any one of us. Radio is a perfect example of how our believing in our students against all odds is giving hope to the hopeless.

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A Roots of Success class in action at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Sooner or later most of these men will be released. These men enter into our classroom one way and by the time that they leave their minds have been expanded beyond recognition. David, Grady, and I believe that what we are doing will transcend these walls, and society will begin to believe in the great potential held within.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11

These are the effects of believing! So let me ask, what are you believing for?

 

More Food for the Very Hunger Caterpillars at MCCCW

 

SPP student-staff and butterfly technicians at MCCCW install four new raise beds to grow Plantago, food for the butterfly larvae.

SPP student-staff and butterfly technicians at MCCCW install four new raise beds to grow plantain, a common weed preferred by the endangered butterfly as food in their larval life-stage. Photo by Seth Dorman.

A refreshing, overcast morning at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) made for great weather to build four new raised beds for the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Program. We will grow plantain (Plantago) in these beds to increase the amount of food for the caterpillars (larvae) at the facility. SPP’s nursery crew—including Carl Elliott, Allie Denzler, and Ricky Johnson— joined the butterfly team on the project.

Lindsey Hamilton, Taylor's Checkerspot Program Coordinator, and butterfly technician Eva Ortiz unload a wheelbarrow full of soil.

Lindsey Hamilton, Taylor’s Checkerspot Program Coordinator, and butterfly technician Eva Ortiz unload a wheelbarrow full of soil. Photo by Seth Dorman.

 

Butterfly technician Michelle Dittamore and SPP nursery coordinator Allie Denzler install support brackets. in a corner. Photo by Seth Dorman.

Butterfly technician Michelle Dittamore and SPP nursery coordinator Allie Denzler install support brackets. in a corner. Photo by Seth Dorman.

The Taylor’s Checkerspot larvae require Plantago leaves for foraging, and then as adult they can use the plants as a place to lay their eggs. In recent years, the larvae have prospered; the hard-working technicians dutifully supply each larva with an appropriate serving of food. The larvae will eat as much as they can in the fall to grow and store up enough energy to survive the cold, winter months of dormancy (diapause). When the hungry larvae wake-up in mid-February, they require an ample food each day to  become a pupa (pupate). Some Februarys, the Plantago plants have not yet had favorable weather conditions for sprouting new, plentiful leaves. Consequently, the food the larvae desperately need to complete their life cycle is scarce. Some years, technicians are forced to pick from scattered Plantago around the perimeter of the facility.

By adding the new raised beds, we hope to have a more dependable supply for larvae to metamorphose into beautifully checkered adults. With the bed additions, we hope to grow at least 3,500 plantain plants. This means each of the 3,500 larvae reared in a season will have their own individual plantain plant! We plan to add cold frames for each raised bed, which will boost plantain production in late winter. Bountiful food resources for the butterfly larvae are beneficial in the warmer months of the season if some food recourses become contaminated or reduced due to pests and disease.

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SPP’s nursery crew and butterfly team shovel soil to be placed in new raise beds. Photo by Seth Dorman.

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After some heavy lifting of soil with shovels, the maintenance crew at MCCCW shows SPP their bulldozing skills. Photo by Seth Dorman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Sagebrush in Central Washington

by Environmental Specialist Dorothy Trainer and SPP Program Manager Kelli Bush

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The hoop house at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center brings nature inside the prison with a new conservation nursery. Photo by Kelli Bush.

With funding support from the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE), Coyote Ridge Correction Center (CRCC) has launched a new Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) Sagebrush Steppe Conservation Nursery Program. SPP is a partnership founded by Washington Department of Corrections and The Evergreen State College. The new program also includes collaborators from Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Washington Native Plant Society (WNP), Washington State University Tri-Cities (WSU TC), and IAE.

Plant ecologist and horticulture educator Gretchen Grabber works with an inmate technician filling tray for seed sewing. Photo by CRCC staff.

Plant ecologist and horticulture educator Gretchen Grabber works with an inmate technician filling tray for seed sewing. Photo by CRCC staff.

This spring inmates started 20,000 sage brush plants at CRCC. As an essential component of the program, hands on training and lectures are provided for inmates and staff by plant ecologist and horticulture educator Gretchen Grabber of WNP and WSU TC. The primary goal of this project is to provide sagebrush for restoration of greater sage grouse habitat. Fifty percent of the sagebrush steppe habitat in the United States has been lost to large scale fires, conversion to other land uses, invasive cheat grass, and noxious weeds. Sagebrush habitat provides important shelter and food for the greater sage grouse and many other species. All of the sagebrush plants grown at CRCC will be planted on BLM land for restoration in the Palisades Flat Fire Project area near Wenatchee, Washington.

Facility staff and Superintendent Uttecht eagerly accepted the opportunity to host this new program with very short notice, resulting in a busy spring and summer at CRCC. It was impressive how quickly they built a hoop house, hired an inmate crew, prepared containers for planting, and planted sagebrush seeds.

This is what we want! A seedling sagebrush shows its beauty in the conservation nursery. Photo by Kelli Bush

This is what we want! A seedling sagebrush shows its beauty in the conservation nursery. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Educational lectures and workshops and plant care will continue into fall. Inmate crews, staff, and Gretchen Grabber will assist BLM in planting sagebrush late fall 2015/early winter 2016.

The Sagebrush Steppe Conservation Nursery program at CRCC is part of a multi-state restoration program including nurseries located in Oregon and Idaho corrections centers. The Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) is a founding partner of SPP-Oregon, and they have provided the grant funding and training materials making this program possible.

Here, CRCC’s superintendent, CRCC staff, Getchen Grabber, and representatives from IAE, DOC headquarters, and SPP meet to hash out critical details that will make the program a success. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Here, CRCC’s superintendent, CRCC staff, Getchen Grabber, and representatives from IAE, DOC headquarters, and SPP meet to hash out details critical to the program’s success. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Partners involved in the nursery recently met at CRCC to discuss program status. It was a productive meeting focused on planning for the rest of this season and dreaming about additions for next year. Thank you to each and every collaborator involved and we look forward to watching this program grow! Special thanks to Stacy Moore with IAE for bringing this opportunity to CRCC.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing Two Worlds Combine

By Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator

(Follow-up post from May 2015 lecture at WCCW.)

Tiffany Webb is finishing her graduate degree in Environmental and Social Justice at the Evergreen State College. Her interdisciplinary thesis focuses on the intersection of environmental justice and education in prisons.

I can’t keep down some strong feelings about leaving every time I am at a lecture now. After nearly two years as the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series Program Coordinator, I only have two more lectures to host before a new MES graduate student finds their own spot in this position. It is exciting to pass the opportunity to someone new, offering an experience that I imagine will be just as eye-opening and rewarding as my own. At the same time, it is very difficult to leave knowing I likely will never again see the people I’ve worked with, learned alongside, and advocated for in prisons.

Tiffany Webb presenting on the environmental justice paradigm and climate justice.

Tiffany presenting on the EJ paradigm and climate justice at Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

Tuesday was a beautiful day. The SPP Network Manager and I have developed science and sustainability education certificates for incarcerated men and women who attend the lecture series regularly. After Tuesday’s presentations, a woman who has been going to lectures at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) for years received the very first certificate recommending transfer credit at Evergreen! We shared such a moment of pride in that room—women lifting each other up and celebrating, owning the classroom and their minds. I am thankful for these moments of victory behind prison walls, and the lasting impact formalization of the Science and Sustainability Lecture Series will have.

Chelsea Smith Waddell, recent MES graduate, giving a presenting on her thesis research.

Chelsea Smith Waddell, recent MES graduate, giving a presentation on her thesis research at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

That day, the new MES Director—someone I consider a huge mentor—Kevin Francis, gave a presentation. Chelsea Smith Waddell, one of the most brilliant and vibrant women I know, also joined us and she shared her thesis research with the class. Her research focused on habitat characteristics of the Oregon Spotted Frog, an endangered frog species being reared at Cedar Creek Corrections Center and released on WA prairies through SPP partnerships.

Kevin Francis, MES Director at the Evergreen State College lecturing at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Kevin Francis, MES Director at the Evergreen State College, lecturing at WCCW.

It was amazing to be in that classroom, seeing my two worlds combine: my Evergreen and WCCW peers all in one room, engaging in education together. It brings me joy to know that while I am leaving this deeply important work, it doesn’t end here. The incarcerated men and women I know continue to push for more education and classroom space at their prisons. The Evergreen faculty and graduate students continue to engage with education outside of an academic institution “bubble”. And unique and empowering spaces will continue to develop in prisons as more people become aware of the injustices associated with the U.S. criminal justice system.”

Roots of Success Marathon Instructor Training, Part Two: Day Four

Photos and text by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Part One of the blog available here.

The four-day Roots of Success training event culminated with a day at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCC-W). It was a joy to be in the classroom with incarcerated women from WCC-W and Mission Creek Corrections Center. The attention and interest they gave the material were palpable, and I cannot wait to see them as instructors! Here are some photo highlights from the day.

Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at San Francisco State University and the Founder and Executive Director of Roots of Success Raquel Pinderhughes teaches a class of future Roots of Success instructors.

Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at San Francisco State University and the Founder and Executive Director of Roots of Success Raquel Pinderhughes teaches a class of future Roots of Success instructors.

A future Roots of Success instructor takes careful notes.

A future Roots of Success instructor takes careful notes.

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The instructor candidates were attentive throughout the presentations. They showed grace and optimism in the face of demanding and dense subject matter.

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The classroom was illuminated by a skylight, and the day light entering the classroom was a lovely compliment to the intellectual and social illumination inside.

The future instructors were joined by staff from several prisons. They serve as liaisons for the Roots of Success program, and their enthusiasm for the course is a huge asset.

Paula Andrew, Dorothy Trainer, Ron Howell, Mark Black, and Greg Banner are DOC staff and SPP superstars--they do so much for our programs! The attended the training so that they can offer full support to the instructors and students of the course.

Paula Andrew, Dorothy Trainer, Ron Howell, Mark Black, and Greg Banner are DOC staff and SPP superstars—they do so much for our programs! The attended the training so that they can offer full support to the instructors and students of the course.

This Friday, I will visit the first Roots of Success class at WCC-W accompanied by SPP’s new program coordinator, Emily Passarelli. Emily takes over Roots coordination from Christina Stalnaker. Christina has graduated, and she left the program in great shape. She streamlined administration for Roots to the point that Emily will be able to give attention to developing further programs. Emily’s title is Green Track Coordinator, to represent a wider focus. Can’t wait to see where we take things next!

Going all-in for LEDs

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

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An inmate-electrician at Washington Corrections Center for Women updates a light fixture in the main courtyard. Photo by Jody Becker-Green.

According to Brian Tinney, Assistant Secretary for the Administrative Services Division, Washington State DOC has purchased 1,353 new LED light fixtures in the last 60 days. The LED light fixtures are far more energy efficient than the those they replace, and DOC expects to save 1.1 gigawatts of electricity in the first 50,000 hours following installation. Saving 1.1  gigawatts is the same as saving 1.1 billion watts, almost enough to power the DeLorean in Back to the Future.

SPP’s new director for DOC, Steve Sinclair, played a pivotal role in the new commitment to LED technology. He inspired facility managers to embrace the idea, and created the purchasing plan to make replacement and retrofits easily achievable.

The next LED challenge will be in converting prison perimeter lighting—switching to LED technology so that outdoor evenings are safe and well-lit, but less expensive than they have been.

The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Program Releases Another Butterfly

by Liz Louie, SPP Butterfly Technician
Introduction by Lindsey Hamilton, SPP Butterfly Program Coordinator

Butterfly technician Elizabeth Louie worked with the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (TCB) program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) for more than two years.  She is now one of the few butterfly husbandry experts in the world.  During her time at Mission Creek she made many significant contributions to the program.  She streamlined data collection procedures and created an immaculately organized system for tracking daily activities and progress.  She always found creative solutions to problems when resources and communication with outside expertise was limited.  Lastly, as a senior butterfly technician she ensured high quality butterfly care and effectively trained and inspired incoming technicians.  The program will benefit from her good work for years to come.  Liz will be missed, but we are so happy for her and wish her the best in all that she pursues in life.

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Liz Louie records data on pupae and butterfly weights.

The following is a blog written by Elizabeth Louie, now out of prison in work release:

It has been 26 months and three seasons, with two Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) bosses and three Department of Corrections (DOC) bosses, releasing approximately 8,000 caterpillars and 250 butterflies to the wild. I have come to the end of an amazing journey. As I leave Mission Creek and the TCB program, I want to say THANK YOU for the experience.

It seems appropriate that I’m leaving just as the caterpillars are going into diapause. All the hard work caring for larvae, pupae and eclosing butterflies, conducting breeding and collecting eggs is now done. It’s now a transition period. A period of rest before the cycle begins again, similar to the stage I’m in now. Work release, a time of transition and preparation for my final release into the community.

Liz Louie explains the details of butterfly husbandry to the University of Denver’s Institute for Human – Animal Connection.  Photo by Judith Gerren

Liz Louie explains the details of butterfly husbandry to the University of Denver’s Institute for Human – Animal Connection. Photo by Judith Gerren

A writer from Sierra Magazine recently asked what I thought about the irony of having a butterfly program in prison; the contrast between the delicate, fragile butterfly and the “harshness” of prison life. For me, butterflies are very resilient animals. Their primary habitat was an artillery range, the aftermath of fire and destruction. Metaphorically, the butterfly symbolizes re-birth, new life and beginnings. So with that said, Mission Creek (prison) makes a lot of sense for a surrogate habitat.

Liz is demonstrating how we care for postdiapause larvae.  We keep them in bins with paper bags ("mima mounds") to climb on after they wake up from their winter slumber. Photo by Jody Becker-Green

Liz is demonstrating how we care for postdiapause larvae. We keep them in bins with paper bags (“mima mounds”) to climb on after they wake up from their winter slumber. Photo by Jody Becker-Green

In fact, there are other parallels between the butterflies and prison life. The larvae will sometimes go into second diapause (D2) if they feel conditions are not right. Maybe there’s not enough food, so the larvae will go back to sleep. Similar to D2 larvae, women come in and out of prison. They may not have gotten what they needed from prison the first time, or they lack outside support to help them be successful. But for me personally, at my age, its good to know that the final stage is a butterfly. It means the most beautiful stage of my life is yet to come. All the other stages have been in preparation for that final one.

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Liz Louie shows inmate Samantha Turner how to remove a new pupae from a “mima mound”. This is a very delicate process.

This will be a time in my life that I won’t soon forget. The people I’ve met and the women I’ve worked with, I take away something from each of them. I’ve learned a lot about myself, both the good, and the things I need to change. I have a greater appreciation for the simple things in life. I walk away a stronger person and look forward to whatever life holds.

Inmate Liz Louie feeds a Taylor’s checkerspot honey water from a Q-tip. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele

Inmate Liz Louie feeds a Taylor’s checkerspot honey water from a Q-tip. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Working with the Oregon Spotted Frog

Introduction by SPP Frog and Turtle Program Coordinator, Sadie Gilliom.  Blog by SPP Frog and Turtle Program Inmate Technician, Mr. Anglemyer.

Mr. Anglemyer, the author of the following blog, is one of the inmate technicians for the Sustainability in Prisons Project’s Frog and Turtle Program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC). Each technician brings unique skills to the program. We like to provide opportunities for all of the technicians to develop the skills they have in addition to learning new ones. Anglemyer is an aspiring journalist and expressed interest in writing about his experience with the frogs and turtles. The following blog is Anglemyer’s first piece. Although dark at times, I think he provides an interesting and important perspective to consider. It has given me insight into how working with an endangered species can stimulate deeper thoughts and self-reflection and how some aspects of the program may be improved by providing the technicians with more hopeful information for the future of the frogs and our world.

Rearing OSF Tadpoles at CCCC

Taking care of Oregon Spotted Frog [OSF] tadpoles is fairly easy…yet, stressful. It’s easy because the tadpoles pretty much take care of themselves. All we have to do is keep them supplied with food and clean water. The stress factor comes in the form of “unknowns” and “what if’s”. The “unknowns” are only a factor because of our lack of experience. When I say “we” and “our”, I’m speaking of me and my co-worker. We’re both prisoners at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, and neither one of us had ever heard of the Oregon Spotted Frog before we started working with them. The “what if’s” are: What if we make a mistake somehow, and they all die? What if we don’t make a mistake and they all die? What if it is thought that we were neglectful, incompetent, or even malicious?

Mr. Anglemyer holding an Oregon spotted frog. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

I have no rational reason to have any of these fears. The staff at the prison and the people connected to the program have been helpful and supportive. They give us clear instructions and everything we need to carry them out. Furthermore, these fears are my own. My co-worker does not share them. I’ve always been a bit of a worrywart—it’s been a rough go. Once bitten, twice shy and all that jive. Murphy’s Law (what can go wrong, will go wrong) has been a constant companion in a large part of my life.

On top of all that, taking care of an endangered species engenders deeper and darker thoughts concerning mortality. Not just the existence and mortality of the animals under my charge, but of the entire species, and my own species as well. If the OSF is doomed, aren’t we all doomed? On a long enough timeline everything and everyone is doomed. Frogs, people, even our planet and solar system will one day be gone. If that were not the case, life would be bland and meaningless. Please don’t regard me as some type of banal armchair (or in my case, steel cot) philosopher for expressing these sentiments. I’m fully aware that these thoughts and feelings are not new and original. Since the first caveman contemplated his own navel, people have struggled with these notions. In the past, present, and future people have and will continue to ponder this stuff, until…well, until…there’s no one left to ponder anything (think about Buddhist teachings on impermanence, and Shelley’s poem Ozymandias). All I’m trying to relay is that working so close to a species that is close to the brink of extinction magnifies these feelings.

Now enough with the heavy stuff, apart from the above stresses, fears, and existential baggage, working with the Oregon Spotted Frogs is extremely rewarding. It’s the most interesting thing that I’ve taken part in in the last decade—and I’ve only been in prison for half that last decade. In that last half decade, I’ve been relegated to necessary yet menial work; I spent three years mopping a top tier at Coyote Ridge. So working with endangered animals is a new and stimulating change. Watching the tadpoles change into frogs and documenting these changes, studying conservation biology, working with people from an educational, rather than, a correctional setting is a great experience. I’ve been exposed to critters that I would’ve only read about. Caring for them connects me to them in a way that reading about them alone would not. And through this connection to these creatures I’m connected in a larger way to the plight of all the other species that will soon no longer be because of my and my species affinity, no, not affinity, rather addiction to strip malls and track housing.

And the great hope that can be taken from the existence of programs like these in the prison sphere, an area of society that is traditionally punitive and reactionary, is that maybe the pendulum is swinging towards a more compassionate world.

SPP’s New Co-Director: Stephen Sinclair

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Stephen Sinclair has replaced Dan Pacholke as the Assistant Secretary for the Prisons Division with the Washington State Department of Corrections. With the new position, he has graciously accepted serving as Co-Director for the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP). Stephen has already shown himself to be a knowledgeable and capable leader for SPP, and we are thrilled to have him on board.

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Steve Sinclair and Joslyn Rose Trivett emceed SPP’s Statewide Summit, a two-day meeting in April, 2015. Photo by Karissa Carlson.

Stephen takes over as Co-Director for SPP from his esteemed predecessor, Dan Pacholke. Dan was one the founders of SPP, and his inspiration and creativity have helped make SPP what it is today. We have no doubt that Stephen will continue to rally WDOC’s sustainability culture; he is dedicated to a more humane and sustainable way of running prisons.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Dan Pacholke for his tireless years of service and dedication to SPP. We are grateful Dan will continue to be involved in SPP, now as a Senior Advisor. We warmly welcome Stephen Sinclair to his new role as Co-Director for SPP. Thank you to you both!

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Steve Sinclair presents on SPP’s future to more than 100 DOC, Evergreen, and program partners. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team building for native violets at Washington Corrections Center

Written June 11, 2015
Joey Burgess, SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator and Graduate Research Assistant
All photos by Joey Burgess

A horticulture student in the Skill Builders Unit at Washington Corrections Center (WCC) tends to native violets in the prison's new seed beds.

A horticulture student in the Skill Builders Unit at Washington Corrections Center (WCC) tends to native violets in the prison’s new seed beds.

My first two months working with the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) was characterized by collaboration and progression, both of which I consider keystone concepts for sustainability. At Washington Corrections Center, a men’s prison near Shelton, WA, we partner with Centralia College, Washington State Department of Corrections (WDOC) staff, and inmates with cognitive impairments to raise Viola adunca (early blue violets) for seed. The project holds novelties for everyone involved and it has flourished thanks to flexibility and open minds.

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A horticulture student carries a rack of early blue violets that are ready to be planted.

Because of precautionary protocols, making infrastructure changes within the walls of a correction facility is not a speedy process. However SPP, WDOC, & Centralia College have truly united and the effect has been excellent. After only three months the violets are flowering, and we have already started harvesting seed. Our success is not limited to the health of the violets; it is also evident in the mental health and progression of the inmates.

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Another member of the class-and-crew hand waters violets.

An interest in horticulture is an inmate’s ticket to the project, but dedication keeps him there. Whether it’s planting, watering, cultivating, or harvesting, we focus on one skill at a time. We encourage each person to find a connection to the work. This holistic approach has created an atmosphere of personal and community development. Inmates are brimming with questions about the broad scheme of SPP, and how they can find similar work upon release. Also, it has been surprisingly common for WDOC officers and administrators who are not involved in the project to ask how they can help, even going out of their way to arrange for our 9,000+ violets to be watered over hot weekends.

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SPP partners weed and care for the violets as a team.

Although in its infancy, the Viola adunca project has created an unlikely community. The original goals were to raise violets for seed and provide inmates with valuable skills. However the project has become a platform for more than that: proof that under a common goal, even stark boundaries can be blurred.

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One of the horticulture students discovered a Pacific chorus frog among the violets. Looks like the SPP logo!