Honeybee love

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

I am dangerously allergic to yellowjacket stings. I have been stung by yellowjackets many times, and I fear and avoid them.

As a good ecologist, I know that honeybees are very different than yellowjackets, but I still wanted to stay away from them. Even the thought of bees, wasps, and hornets has been enough to scare me. I tolerated SPP’s honeybee programs because I supported them in principle, but never wanted too get too close.

A few weeks ago, I suddenly realized that I’ve changed: I have learned to love honeybees. It happened by accident—I didn’t set out to change my mind, but changed it is!

I love this photo of bees in flight; on some of them, you can clearly see their "baskets" full of pollen on their rear legs. Image from organizedchaos.com.

I love this photo of bees in flight; on the central bee, you can clearly see one of her “baskets” full of pollen. Image from organizedchaos.com.

I think the shift started last summer, working on King 5’s story on beekeeping. Mr. Anglemeyer, Mr. Boyson, and Officer Epling’s enthusiasm and praise for the program must have been infectious. It was also the first time I met Laurie Pyne of the Olympia Beekeepers Association, and she radiates excitement about honeybees. Last fall, her guest lecture on honeybees had my rapt attention, and I memorized parts of her presentation without even trying.

Also during recent months, we have heard more and more beekeeping interest from prison staff and inmates. Cedar Creek has graduated their second class of Apprentice Beekeepers. Stafford Creek Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center for Women, and the Penitentiary also have hives. For the prisons that don’t have honeybees yet, we keep hearing that they want them: Clallam Bay Corrections Center, Airway Heights, Coyote Ridge, and Washington Corrections Center all want honeybees too…time for me to get with the program! Luckily, seems I already have.

If I stood right next to a hive, I might still feel like screaming.

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Jamar Glenn and Fiona Edwards stand among honeybees flying to and from their hives. Photo by SPP staff.

But it seems more likely that I would feel like this:

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A beekeeper at Washington State Penitentiary shows his love for a honeybee swarm. Photo by DOC staff.

Thanks for being patient with me, honeybees. I’m your new biggest fan.

 

No More Phones

The following blog is the third article submitted to us by one of SPP’s Western Pond Turtle Inmate Technicians.  Although we may not agree with all he says, we think it is a well thought out and interesting presentation of the challenges and possibilities of building a sustainable world.  We want to thank Mr. Anglemyer for sharing his meaningful perspective.

By Mr. Anglemyer, Western Pond Turtle Inmate Technician

Simulation done by NASA showing CO2 in the earth's atmosphere.

Simulation done by NASA showing CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere.

The following is my attempt to put the climate crisis into an analogy that defines the seriousness of the problem and how easy it is to become distracted from it by short term goals, wants and the ostensible necessities that we all seem to be obsessed with.

Nothing seems more important to people nowadays than their phones, so I’ve decided to use a phone analogy in order to be as relevant as possible. Let’s say that: Everyone has a cell phone that runs off the same communal battery. This battery has been around forever; before phones and even people. It belongs to no one and everyone (including non-human animals) at the same time. This battery has a really long life–four to five billion years or so. Unfortunately, this battery has no gauge to tell how much of a charge it has left; it is impossible to tell when it will run out. The battery can recharge itself to a limited degree, yet it never recharges faster than its optimum potential and it will recharge slower (or even to the point where the recharging is not sufficient to stop the battery from depleting) depending on the amount of use.  Moreover, its recharging capacity will become permanently damaged by extreme over use.

All the phones will die if the battery is depleted completely. The battery cannot recharge itself if it is drained below half of its capacity. Once it passes the threshold of half charged to below half charged, that’s it. It will run down its last half charge and then go out forever, done, dead, kaput!

As long as the battery is kept charged above half full, it will continue to recharge itself and will be around for a very long time– the aforesaid five billion years. The problem is, although the battery will continue to hold a charge for a long time, the time that it takes for it to go from above half charged to below half-charged will happen in an instant. Because there is not a battery gauge it is necessary to be conservative with phone use and liberal in regards of charging the phone, right? That seems rational, does it not?

Let’s think of the planet as analogous with the phone/battery described above; a phone that will last for eons; a phone that we depend on.  It is the only phone that we’ll ever have access to.  The phone just needs to be kept charged above half at all times.  This means that it is our duty to conserve use and be careful with how we use the phone.  If we hand the phone over to our children only half-charged they will not be able to recharge it. It will last them and their children, and their children’s children (maybe longer, maybe not, definitely not equally in terms of quality); but it will never be recharged again. It will have a lifespan that is a small fraction of the four to five billion years.

The ability of the battery to recharge in this analogy is similar to how the planet’s ecosystems work to keep the planet healthy. The degradation of the battery represents the degradation of the ecosystems which sustain the planet in a livable form. The air, water, and soil are all necessary for life. Their degradation to a point which they are unable to regenerate themselves is the end of…well…the end of everything (at least as far as we’re concerned). These elements regenerate as long as the plants and animals that support their health are not destroyed, poisoned, or overharvested past the point of their own ability to replenish themselves. Once the soil and the animals that contribute to its ability to regenerate die out forever–it’s, as they say in showbiz, a wrap.

No more phones — forever. No more planet–forever.  All that had to be done to prevent this tragedy was for people to take a stance on the side of caution, dial down their consumption, and put an end to their wastefulness; thusly, allowing the ecosystems to heal.  Instead it looks like our species (and many others, thanks to our myopic actions) is soon to be evicted from this world–like loud, destructive, and messy tenets from a rental (and rightly so, if we don’t change our ways).

I know this is an oversimplified analogy. I’ve probably failed to put it down in an articulate way–the way it made sense in my head.  I’m not a professional writer. I’m not a professional scientist. I’m not a philosopher. I’m just some dude in prison with lots of time to think.  I may be wrong. The climate might not be becoming unlivable; the animals may not be becoming extinct; and, if they are, our species’ activities might not be the cause. But, if, there’s the slightest chance that they are, and we are causing it, wouldn’t it be sensible to be extremely cautious with regards to the impacts we impose upon them?

Anglemyer holding an federally threatened Oregon spotted frog. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

Anglemyer holding a federally threatened Oregon spotted frog. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

The thing that worries me though is that if I have come to these conclusions about playing it safe when it comes to our planet: why haven’t most of the extensively smart and caring individuals that have been elected to represent us in the legislature come to the same conclusions?

I’m sure that many of them would say that I’ve been brainwashed by environmentalist propaganda.  They’d say that I’m anti-business, or even anti-American.  Others might just make excuses for how change happens slowly, or how we’re just not ready to make the jump to a “green lifestyle/economy.” I’d retort by accusing them of being the lapdogs of industrialism and imperialism.  But sadly, they’re not alone.  We’ve all been enchanted by the spell of industrialism.  We all live and depend on the conveniences and privileges that Industrialism and Imperialism force upon us–privileges and conveniences that addicted us to an extremely unsustainable and wasteful lifestyle.

Recently, we had some people come out and give an estimate of what it would take to set up a solar powered shack. They gave a well-researched, thorough presentation. I felt so discouraged when it was over; Thousands of dollars for initial setup and one huge battery to run only four 100 watt heat lamps. At the time I remember thinking: “What a bummer! I really thought that solar power had come much further than that.” I had fallen victim to the energy addiction that industrialism has to offer. In reality, 400 watts of power is a lot of power. It is plenty to reasonably light a house, but it’s not enough to keep up with our excessive demand for energy.

A model of the proposed solar power unit for the turtle shed. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

A model of the proposed solar power unit for the turtle shed. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

We’re going to have to say goodbye to lots of the things we have become reliant on, before a sustainable—and healed—world is possible. This means that instead of depending on others to feed us, we are going to have to become responsible for growing our own food. This means cities will have to transform drastically from their current state of existence. This means that, our economy is going to have to change as well. We’re going to have to figure out new ways to feed and entertain ourselves, hopefully we can. We all might become more responsible family members, friends, neighbors (as people connected to their land bases usually are) … you know, better HUMANS, more connected to each other than with our stuff.

These changes are going to be fought against by many of us. “What do you mean I can’t have bacon and cheese on everything!? What do you mean I can’t have avocados in February? What do you mean I can’t drive a monster truck that gets 6 miles to the gallon? I’m an American! Which means that I can have whatever I want whenever I want it, and do whatever I want whenever I want to!” I can hear it now. Indeed, I do hear it now—it seems to be the attitude that many people have when told that things they have become accustomed to are destroying the planet’s ability to sustain life.

Switching back to the phone/battery metaphor, people with the above attitudes want to use their phones more and more. More data, more apps, more Google searches for meaningless trivia or celebrity gossip, more and more till the battery is drained past half and can never be recharged.

So when you hear some politician or plutocrat and their commercials spouting slogans like “energy independence,” “economic stability,” “more middle-class jobs,” “make America great again,” realize that they’re peddling the destruction of everything and everyone in the future in order to make gluttons of themselves in the present. They want to run the battery out as quickly as possible. They want to bleed the planet dry as quickly as possible, and they are relying on us to be complicit (or at least complaisant) in the waste. They are selling what we have been buying for centuries; the same myopic idea of utilitarian use and pervasive domination that got us into our current crisis.

It is an easy sell. Change towards a sustainable world is going to be hard work. I mean literally and figuratively. It will entail the literal, hard physical, work of growing food and raising animals and tearing up parking lots and renovating office buildings into more useful structures. It will entail the figurative, mental and emotional work of reimagining social organizations and power structures. (So much more could be written about these aspects, but this is a blog, not a book.) It’s a shameful fact that the hard physical work that sustains our agriculture and construction industries has been consigned, for the most part, to the most vulnerable of our population—the undocumented and uneducated, the marginalized and the poverty-stricken. If sustainability is to become a reality everyone is going to have to do their share of labor (real labor that produces needed things). The changing of deeply ingrained ideas is going to be a lot harder. It may take a very long time; and, it may never be completely finished.

So instead of running down the battery watching NASCAR on your 60 inch television, playing fantasy football, immersing in presidential politics, becoming obsessed with the latest exercise or diet fad—or some other wholly insane and preposterous activity, try thinking about what you have been buying all these years and why you need it (or don’t). Realize that it’s been easy for sellers to peddle these things/attitudes to you, because irresponsibility and gluttony sell themselves—especially when their disguised as inevitabilities that are going to be bought with or without your consent.

Nothing like an octopus in prison!

Photos by SPP Science & Sustainability Lecture Series Coordinator, Liliana Caughman

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The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) guest lecturer Rus Higley of the Marine Science and Technology (MaST) Center at Highline College observes a red octopus with a  lecture student.

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Jillian Mayer, an AmeriCorps volunteer who works at MaST, walks the octopus among the aisles at the Science and Sustainability lecture.

Octopus-beauty

During the lecture on octopus intelligence we learned that octopuses have smarts not only in their brain, but in their tentacles and skin. (Check out those good looking smarts! ;>))

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Students take a closer look at the visiting red octopus and get an immersive lesson in marine biology.

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Rus Higley attempts to derive the meaning of “intelligence” to a full classroom at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC).

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We at SPP would like to thank Rus for initiating the first ever live animal lecture at SCCC. With the inspiration of this fantastic creature, the students were more engaged and inquisitive than ever.

AHCC Roots of Success Graduation

By Dawnel Southwick, Airway Heights Corrections Center
Originally published in DOC Digest, a weekly update for WA DOC staff

AIRWAY HEIGHTS – Friday, December 18, 2015 at Airway Heights Correction Center, ten offenders successfully graduated from the Roots of Success program. This was the first class to be recognized at Airway Heights for the hard work and dedication for sustainable, environmental practices.

Roots graduates show their certificates alongside Superintendent Key and the staff sponsor for the program. Photo by DOC staff.

Roots graduates show their certificates alongside Superintendent Key and the staff sponsor for the program. Photo by DOC staff.

The Department of Corrections is committed to sustainable practices by implementing and promoting a culture of positive environmental awareness and conservancy. Areas in which prisons target sustainable practices are: Reducing environmental impacts; containing costs; offer employment, education, training, re-entry, and therapeutic opportunities for offenders; and to provide needed services to the community. Facilities establish their own Sustainability Action Plan to address efforts towards meeting objectives and goals outlined in the Department’s Sustainability Plan.

Roots of Success is an environmental literacy course created by Raquel Pinderhughes, PhD. Dr. Pinderhughes specifically designed this curriculum for offenders and it is taught in many prisons and juvenile detention centers across the Country, including Washington State. Currently, Roots of Success is being offered at Airway Heights, Clallam Bay, Coyote Ridge, Larch, Mission Creek Corrections for Women, Stafford Creek, Washington Corrections Center for Women, and Washington State Penitentiary.

The program is facilitated by offenders who have completed an instructor’s course, are committed to teaching, and are passionate about the material. Instructors encourage critical thinking and problem solving throughout the course, which creates an environment where inmates can brainstorm and thoroughly discuss the implementation of sustainable practices within correctional facilities. The information is presented in modules covering fundamentals of environmental literacy, water, waste, transportation, energy, building, health⁄food⁄agriculture, community organizing and leadership, financial literacy and social entrepreneurship, and application and practice.

While sustainable education and development are the obvious benefits of the course, it’s the focus on environmental justice and community advocacy that may have the most significant impact on these men and the neighborhoods they’ll eventually release to. Focusing on human rights and unity changes the student’s motivation from preserving non-renewable resources and reducing carbon footprints to considering the needs of those who are disproportionately affected by environment-related matters.

The byproducts are:

  • Strong sense of responsibility for one another and a profound increase in empathy for our communities
  • Meaningful and gainful employment once released
  • Environmental conscious living
  • A positive force for social change and environmental sustainability
  • Improve prison culture
  • Sense of purpose while incarcerated
  • Continuous sustainable efforts within the prison

Found within Roots of Success is a great potential to reduce negative prison culture, increase the sustainability of the facility, and motivate students to want to be a positive force for social change and help transform their community both in the institution and in society.

Roots of Success Graduation Speech – Larch Corrections Center

I had the privilege of visiting Larch Corrections Center’s first graduation Roots of Success class in the beginning of December. A huge congratulations is in order for everyone involved. Thank you to the students, instructors, and Classification Counselor Shawn Piliponis for the dedication and hard work. It couldn’t be done without you. We look forward to celebrating many more graduations.

LCC-Roots-gradsI wanted to share one of the seven wonderful speeches that each offender gave. Daniel C. Carter of Larch Corrections Center wrote and presented the speech below. Mr. Carter would love to become a Roots of Success Instructor someday.

That is such a nice smile! :>)

That is such a nice smile! :>)

Dear Ms. Raquel Pinderhughes,

I am writing to thank you for your dedication to helping prisoners to enhance their environmental awareness. I first became aware of your contribution to the Sustainability in Prisons Project while I was working in the Engineering Department at Stafford Creek Corrections Centers in 2012-2013. I was able to be involved in the Beekeeping program as well as doing construction and repair work on the Tilapia Farm, the recycling center, and building the hoop houses that went to the women’s prison. It was also there that I first heard about the Roots of Success class.

Student Daniel Carter gives his speech during Larch's first Roots of Success Graduation. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Student Daniel Carter gives his speech during Larch’s first Roots of Success Graduation. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

I’ve been incarcerated for fifteen years and working at Stafford Creek and being part of the Sustainability in Prisons Project was one of the most rewarding  and fulfilling experiences I’ve had in all that time. Being engaged with the environment and things that are positively impact the planet was therapeutic and even humanizing.

As a person who has spent my entire adult life in prison, I can say with authority of personal experience and years of critical observation that the prison experience is generally humiliating, degrading, and painful. We are cut off from the natural world and the rest of civilization almost completely. Many of us live our lives like animals in zoos: trapped behind concrete walls, razor wire fences, within steel cages, surrounded by extraordinary levels of hostility. It is a hardship to simply not become hardened.

Most of us who endure incarceration suffer from severe trauma as a result of existing under these circumstances. Therefore, I’m convinced being part of these programs, such as those at Stafford Creek and Roots of Success, is critical to keeping men and women who are behind bars in touch with their humanity and in contact with the natural world.

I joined the Roots of Success class here at Larch Corrections Center because of the great work I was exposed to at Stafford. I’ve learned many useful things from the Roots of Success class, such as the impact of industrialization, climate change, green jobs, and alternative ways of behaving to minimize my own carbon footprint. I learned about sustainable development and environmental justice/injustice. I also learned about just how wasteful our consumer culture really is and how our economic and social system contributes to gross impacts on our environment, treating the planet and people as if they are disposable.

The environmental literacy curriculum is well designed and I feel like it is very beneficial. I enjoyed the videos. My favorite one was called, “The Story of Stuff.”

I also liked the module on financial literacy and social entrepreneurship. The fact that it is taught by inmates is also something about it that I really appreciate.

I look forward to getting out of prison and being part of the solution for the problem we are facing in terms of climate change and the destruction of the world’s most precious non-renewable resources. I want to live a lifestyle conducive to the world around me rather than one that corrupts it further. I want my children to learn to respect the biosphere of which they are a part of and to realize their responsibility to maintain and protect it.

Thank you so much for your work. You have helped me to not only being even more environmentally conscious, but even more inspired to propagate environmental literacy and green ways of living.

Sincerely,

Daniel C Carter, #838440

Larch Correction Center

 

Congrats to Mr. Carter and his fellow students and instructors for this fantastic feat!

Lecture Series expands to Shelton

by Liliana Caughman, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator; Photos by Liliana Caughman and Emily Passarelli

Following months of planning, on December 9th, SPP hosted its first ever Science and Sustainability lecture at Washington Corrections Center (WCC) in Shelton, WA. The busy day included two separate lectures to introduce audiences to SPP statewide, and showcase the SPP programs already in place at WCC.

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SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator Liliana Caughman discusses past Science and Sustainability lectures.

Lecture Number One: General Population

The first lecture occurred in the chapel room, which is covered in beautiful murals painted by the official inmate artist. It is a perfect open, yet intimate setting for learning.

A small group of the most avid inmates signed up to join us for this introductory lecture. They were all enthralled with SPP and excited to learn about science and sustainability. All asked questions and offered comments on how to make the lecture series a success at WCC. Everyone took a number of SPP flyers and handouts with them with the promise of distributing them throughout the living units and recruiting their peers to join future lectures.

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WCC inmates and staff look on and smile while learning about SPP at Washington Corrections Center.

This lecture was different than most in that a large number of staff joined the fun: roughly 15 staff members attended, including prison administrators, healthcare workers, correctional officers, and others. They told us that, in the past, it would have been unthinkable for staff and inmates to come together for a lecture. Now, they are hoping to make it a regular thing.

After the conclusion of the first lecture, we headed over to the Intensive Management Unit (IMU) for lecture number two.

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SPP’s Green Track Program Coordinator Emily Passarelli during SPP’s first lecture in the WCC IMU.

Lecture Number Two: IMU

This was SPP’s second lecture in an Intensive Management Unit (IMU; the first occurred in summer 2015 at Monroe Correctional Complex). The IMU is like a prison inside a prison. There is a separate entrance to the unit and inmates inside are in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

Due to the high security risk posed by these inmates, staff must bring them into the classroom one at a time, and chain each student to their desk. The desks are so bulky, and the process so time-consuming, that the lecture class is limited to 6 student-inmates.

Seeing people limited this way can be shocking. There is a dark side to our society, and it is in places like the IMU where it is most evident.

However, the vast majority of these men will someday be released to outside communities, and need access to programs that can assist with rehabilitation. Due to the restrictive nature of the IMU, these inmates have very little contact with other people, and social skills can become further and further depleted. Educational programming like the Science and Sustainability Lecture Series may offer a safe and engaging group experience, and allow them to set their sights on a more positive future.

IMU-student

A student in the IMU listens attentively to the presentation.

Despite the challenging setting, the lecture was fantastic. None of the inmates in attendance had ever heard of SPP before, and they were visibly interested in learning more. While the group started off quiet and reserved, all were attentive. By the end, a few had opened up to ask questions and contribute comments.

The students seemed to especially enjoy the pictures of WCC’s extensive gardens, and learning about what sustainable practices were happening at their prison. The more talkative of the bunch made it clear that they wanted more lectures in the future, and asked to be included on the list of attendees. We saw the IMU inmates’ desire to learn and grow. This group must not be forgotten.

Overall, December 9th was a special day. It marked a number of important firsts for WCC, and progress for the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series. The future looks bright for a lecture series to flourish in Shelton.

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Bringing nature inside the IMU, one step at a time.

WCCW Graduates first Roots class – photo gallery

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Last Friday, Liliana Caughman and I had honor of joining Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW)’s graduation ceremony for their first Roots of Success class. Sadly, we had to leave before the cake (five of them, and they spelled R-O-O-T-S), but we stayed long enough to soak up a whole lot of pride and happiness. Here is my photo gallery of the graduates and their audience.

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Graduate Lacinda Gadbaw was the first to stand and be recognized by her classmates.

Kandyce-Benefield

Surrounded by her fellow graduates, Roots of Success graduate Kandyce Benefield acknowledges applause.

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All three members of WCCW’s senior staff attended: seated in the back row, from the right, are Associate Superintendent David Flynn, Superintendent Dona Zavislan, and Associate Superintendent Felice Davis.

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Unlike other graduations I have attended, this one included an audience of invited peers; it was gratifying to see graduates recognized by their in-prison friends and family.

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SPP Sustainable Operations Manager Julie Vanneste was key to initiating Roots in Washington State prisons. At this celebration, she offered to the graduates her heart-felt congratulations and admiration.

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Roots instructors Renee Curtiss (center) and Teresa Settle (right) applaud their students. Both were certified as class instructors this past May. Paula Andrew, a champion of SPP programs for WCCW, sits next to them.

Jeanette-Murphy

Jeannette Murphy is a current Evergreen student, and has participated in several SPP programs. It was wonderful to see her become a Roots grad too! Ms. Murphy will work with SPP on the process for awarding Evergreen credit for the course.

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Roots graduate Darlene McClellan served as the class fact-checker. During the ceremony, she volunteered facts that illustrated the importance of environmental knowledge and solutions.

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Graduate Jasmine Van Guilder stands to be acknowledged by her peers and the assembled audience.

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And finally, a studious moment during a Roots class last month, when Green Track and Lecture Series Coordinators visited. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Live Falcon and Certification Ceremony makes Lecture Soar

Our friends at the West Sound Wildlife Shelter sure know how to draw a crowd. Their most recent lecture at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) drew the highest attendance we have ever seen: 92 inmates attended, blowing the previous record of 84 attendees out of the water!

via GIPHY

The women at WCCW are passionate about wildlife and were completely enthralled by special guest Pele, the loveable American kestrel. When the trainers, Nancy and Debra, unveiled the raptor the students let out a collective gasp and then fell dead-quiet; the demonstrated respect was inspiring to witness.

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Inmate students look on in awe as the American Kestrel Falcon is revealed at the Science and Sustainability lecture.

The presentation was engaging and enjoyable. The inmates asked a host of thought-provoking questions and many wanted to know how they could make a difference in the lives of birds. The guest lecturers provided detailed answers and explained how the women could volunteer for the West Sound Wildlife animal shelter upon release.

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Nancy LeMay, the handler from West Sound Wildlife, brings Pele closer to the audience.

This was a very special lecture. Perhaps another reason for the large crowd was the certification ceremony. We distributed 12 certificates to those who have reached Lecture Series attendance milestones.

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Each inmate student who earned a certificate came up to the front of the class and shook hands with Liliana Caughman, the Lecture Series Program Coordinator.

The lecture class was excited to celebrate their personal achievements and those of their peers. Four people were awarded Level Two certificates for attending 10 or more lectures, and eight more were awarded the first level of certification, given after 5 lectures. Many inmates approached me after the lecture to share that they are motivated to keep attending in order to reach the third level of certification, which recommends college credit.

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Inmate Cicely McFarland is thrilled to receive her first certificate for attending five Science and Sustainability Lectures.

This lecture was a resounding success. We owe great thanks to our star presenters from West Sound Wildlife Shelter, and of course, to the animals themselves. Further, I am very proud of the women who earned their certificates and felt honored to be a part of a positive milestone in their lives.

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A big thanks goes out to the star of the show, Pele, and we appreciate the dedication of Nancy, Deb, and West Sound Wildlife animal shelter.

I think I can speak for women of the WCCW lecture series when I say we can’t wait for the next live animal presentation or the next certificate ceremony. Maybe next time we will reach 100 attendees!

From Poop to Employment: Jonathan Jones-Thomas shares his experience returning to prison as a guest lecturer

By Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas, Group Three Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator
Photos by Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator

Going back to prison to talk to inmates about job opportunities in the industry of wastewater treatment through SPP was indescribable. To return 1 ½ years after serving a 10-year sentence for assault… I told myself I would never go back. I didn’t know I would have the opportunity to go back to encourage others to walk my path, seek out healthy relationships and green job opportunities.

The author poses in the parking lot of Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

The author poses in the parking lot of Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

While incarcerated at the Monroe Correctional Complex (Monroe, WA), I was introduced to the wastewater industry by a “white man” by the name of Brian Funk. Being “black” myself, I didn’t expect to be introduced to education or employment opportunities by “white dudes”. Brian was unique in that he didn’t care about all the prison politics involved with “looking out for your own kind”. He was the type to “just do the right thing”. As the result, four years later, I type this at a computer working for a municipality in Snohomish County; I make good money, and Brian works next to me. He had no idea his small investment in the “black guy” would lead to a career in wastewater for the both of us, plus a plethora of opportunities to encourage others to do the same thing.

We were invited to speak at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (Aberdeen, WA) by Kristin Covey, a Brightwater employee. Brightwater is the upper echelon of wastewater treatment in the state of Washington. Kristin was invited by SPP to present at the prison and decided it would be best to bring two guys along that have been “in” and are now “out” in the industry. Before arriving, Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator, made clear that there was a growing interest in green jobs post prison. During the two hour drive, Brian and I formulated a plan to maximize our time with the offenders, knowing that there was a unique opportunity for them to hear about the pitfalls and challenges first hand.

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Kristin Covey, Brian Funk, and Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas, three experts in waste water treatment, co-presented to a mesmerized audience.

Walking into the prison was extremely stressful. In the back of my mind I knew I would be leaving in a matter of hours, but in my emotions…I waited to leave prison for 9 years 21 days and here I am inside again. But this time Brian and I have the reputation of SPP and wastewater industry professional, Kristin Covey, arriving and leaving with us. Walking through the breezeway, I looked at all the other fellow inmates thinking, “I wonder if they know I’m one of them.” Brian, having spent time at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, was greeted by a number of fellow inmates. It made me feel more comfortable knowing that they knew we too have walked that breezeway. By the time I got to the classroom I was ready to present. The fifty or so folks that showed up were ready to learn about the career opportunities in the wastewater industry. They didn’t know that I would bombard them with a lesson in life skills. Hopefully, Brian and I made it clear: you don’t get to get out of prison and maintain success in any industry, or life for that matter, without personal growth. Education is the key to a successful, sustainable transition back to society. It was awesome…

Brian and Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas learned about waste water treatment in-prison and went on to make it a career after release.

Brian Funk and Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas learned about waste water treatment while incarcerated, and they have turned their expertise into careers.

Frog Release 2015: Celebrating the Program that Paved the Way!

by SPP Program Manager, Kelli Bush

On October 6th, SPP partners from Department of Corrections and The Evergreen State College gathered with representatives from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Northwest Trek, and Woodland Park Zoo to release frogs into a Pierce County wetland. This marks the sixth season of the partnership raising federally-threatened Oregon spotted frogs at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (Cedar Creek). It was a joyous occasion as all the partners gathered to release frogs from the three rearing programs.This year Cedar Creek raised 167 frogs and they have raised a total of 879 frogs since the program started in 2009.

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Two Oregon spotted frogs pause for moment before taking a leap into their new home. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

The program is likely to end while scientists focus on learning more about effective recovery strategies. The likely suspension of the program provides an opportunity to reflect on successes and the many contributors who have dedicated their time to this effort.

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Inmate Technician Mr. Anglemeyer saying goodbye to the frogs. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

The Oregon Spotted Frog program is the first known prison animal conservation program in the United States. We were able to do this work because several key science partners were convinced that a collaborative program operated in prisons could contribute to species recovery. Special thanks to biologists Jim Lynch and Marc Hays for recognizing the potential of this program.

Since the program started, 13 inmate technicians have received herpetological training and education. SPP inmate technicians have matched the success of programs hosted at zoo facilities. The current technicians, Mr. Boysen and Mr. Anglemyer, have done excellent work!

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Mr. Boysen measuring frogs with Frog and Turtle Coordinator, Sadie Gilliom. Photo by SPP Liaison Ms. Sibley.

Four corrections staff have served as the SPP Liaison for the program. Each of these staff have accepted this work in addition to their regular duties. Thanks to Ms. Sibley, the current program liaison—her time and dedication has been so important to program operation. Also, special thanks to Superintendent Doug Cole for years of enthusiastic support for the program.

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Ms. Sibley, SPP Liaison holding a tomato from the greenhouse. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

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Superintendent Cole holding an Oregon spotted frog. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

Six graduate students from Evergreen’s Masters of Environmental Studies program have served as program coordinator. Each student makes important contributions and improvements to the program. Sadie Gilliom is the current program coordinator. Sadie’s program contributions have included science seminars, animal behavior studies, and updated outreach materials.

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Sadie Gilliom releasing a frog. Photo by Kelli Bush.

The Oregon Spotted Frog program at Cedar Creek paved the way for conservation programs in prisons. Through the success of this first program, collaborators proved conservation work can be done well in prisons, and that it can be rewarding for everyone involved.

As a result, new conservation programs have been started in Washington prisons and prisons in other states. SPP partners at Cedar Creek will continue caring for Western pond turtles, another species in need. Now that the frogs are gone we will be keeping an eye out for new science and sustainability programs to introduce to the prison. May these new programs be as successful as the frogs!

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The SPP frog release team. Photo by frog recovery team collaborator.