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.

Steve Sinclair and Joslyn Rose Trivett MC'ed SPP's statewide summit, a two-day meeting in April, 2015. Photo by Karissa Carlson.

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 doing business.

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!

Steve Sinclair makes a presentation to more than 100 DOC, Evergreen, and program partners. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

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.

carrying-conetainers

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.

watering

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.

SPP staff

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.

frog

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

 

Diving Right In! Zandra Jones shares her experience from the 2015 SPP Summit.

Summit 2015 attendees and SPP staff. Photo taken by Zandra Jones

Summit 2015 attendees and SPP staff. Photo taken by Zandra Jones

by Zandra Jones, SPP Program and Administrative Assistant

On Wednesday April 23rd and Thursday April 24th, 2015, SPP hosted a Washington State Summit at The Evergreen State College (Evergreen). As a fairly new SPP staff member, the Summit was my chance to dive right into all things SPP. I personally could not have asked for a better introduction to this fantastic partnership. Not only did I spend time with a plethora of intelligent, passionate guests, I was able to spend ample time collaborating with my hardworking new colleagues to host a productive and memorable event. The two-day Summit was a major success, with more than 100 attendees from all across Washington State, as well as a few from Oregon and California.

Attendees were welcomed by Les Purce, Evergreen’s President. He delivered a motivating speech, his enthusiasm setting a positive energy for the gathering. Shortly after, Carri LeRoy, SPP Co-director and Stephen Sinclair, SPP Senior Advisor for Prisons, gave the group an SPP Statewide Overview.

Stephen Sinclair, SPP Advisor for Prisons, presents to a packed room. Photo taken by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

The Summit continued with various presentations on SPP, including the SPP Brand by Stephen Sinclair, and some of our many vital partnerships by Kelli Bush, SPP’s Program Manager. My favorite part of the first day had to be the coffee break, which was an awesome opportunity to listen in on SPP-related conversations. I heard widespread interest and dedication to the partnership.

Guests enjoying the coffee break. Photo taken by SPP staff.

My first day at the Summit was drawing to an early close due to class, but not before I was able to see Stew Henderson, the Lean Project Leader from the Governors Office, speak about Results Washington. It was exciting to see someone in such a high position so involved with sustainability and the SPP vision.

Stew Henderson, Lean Project Leader, talks about how SPP fits into state government efforts in sustainability. Photo taken by SPP Staff.

On the morning of day two I was excited to see a couple of the panels, as well as participate in one myself. I could not wait to hear more of what people had to say pertaining to the brilliant work they have done. The first panel focused on Sustainable Operations, and was introduced by Julie Vanneste, SPP’s Sustainable Operations Manager. It was the perfect opener for my panel experience.

The Sustainable Operations Panel described best practices and innovative ideas. Photo taken by SPP Staff.

The day continued with a panel on Community Contributions, introduced by Kelli Bush. I got yet another dose of SPP education and felt quite inspired! The work these people do helps tremendously with inmates’ behavior and health, and benefits the communities incarcerated people go back to in the long run. It also directly benefits the communities on the outside that are in need of bikes, wheel chairs, service dogs, and more.

Kelli Bush, SPP’s Program Manager provides a brief overview of Community Contribution programs. Photo by Zandra Jones.

 

Community Contributions Panel. Photo taken by Zandra Jones

The Community Contributions Panel included partners from programs working with dogs, growing vegetables and flowers, fixing bikes and wheelchairs, and creating crafts for the community. Photo by Zandra Jones.

In a turn of events, myself and other current Evergreen Students were called up to share a bit about ourselves and our involvement with SPP. I was so excited to be sitting in the same space as people I have come to really admire, but my nerves began taking over when I realized that theirs are tough acts to follow. I felt much more confident as the faces in the audience showed interest in what I had to say.

A Student Panel included past and present SPP program coordinators, interns, and me! Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

The remainder of day two presented us with good food, great presentations, and motivating conversations.

Gardeners from five programs held an impromptu lunchtime meeting. Photo by Zandra Jones.

After lunch, Joslyn Trivett, SPP’s Network Manager and Dorothy Trainer, Environmental Specialist, launched into the action planning process at Coyote Ridge Correctional Center.

Joslyn Trivett, SPP’s Network Manager, outlined the Action Planning Process, a way to set priorities and create work plans for SPP programs. Photo by Zandra Jones.

Next, Stephen Sinclair took the spotlight alongside Carri LeRoy to share some of SPP’s history, the direction we are hoping to go, and some new initiatives that are already in place.

Stephen Sinclair, SPP Senior Advisor for prisons talks about earlier days of SPP. Photo taken by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

IMG_5130

Carri LeRoy, SPP’s Co-director describes activities of the SPP Network. Photo by SPP staff.

Joslyn Trivett and Kelli Bush made another appearance to introduce the Green Track concept.

Joslyn Trivett, SPP’s Network Manager, and Kelli Bush, SPP’s Program Manager, co-present on new SPP initiatives. Photo by Zandra Jones.

Then it was the guests turn to speak up. Carl Elliott, SPP’s Conservation Nursery Manager, facilitated a seminar-like discussion. Many guests shared their ideas and answers to posed questions. I really enjoyed getting to be a part of the exchange and observing the shared passion for improvement.

Zandra Jones, SPP’s Administrative Assistant, standing next to her notes from the group discussion. Photo by Carri LeRoy.

The discussion was the perfect transition to carry us into the last segment of the Summit. Stephen Sinclair stepped up one last time to speak about the Sustainability plan for 2016-2017 and take suggestions for improvement.

Steve Sinclair, SPP's Senior Advisor for Prisons. Photo taken by SPP staff

Stephen Sinclair ends the 2 day event. Photo by SPP staff.

I am definitely looking forward to next year’s Summit. Hope there is one!

Roots of Success Marathon Instructor Training, Part 1: The first three days

By Christina Stalnaker, SPP Graduate Research Assistant and Roots of Success Coordinator

After a rigorous, 4-day training event, all 12 prisons in Washington State have a cadre of Roots of Success instructors. Each day, a fresh group of instructor candidates learned the necessary skills to teach Roots’ environmental literacy curriculum. In total, we certified 31 new instructors representing programs at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, Larch Corrections Center, Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women, Olympic Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center, and Washington Corrections Center for Women.

On the first day of training, Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes, founder of Roots of Success, teaches and certifies Roots instructor candidates from WCC. Master Trainers observe her teaching methods in preparation for the next two days, when they will teach and certify the candidates themselves. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

On the first day of training, Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes, founder of Roots of Success and expert on Green Workforce Training, taught and certified Roots instructor candidates from WCC. Master Trainer candidates observed her teaching methods in preparation for the next two days, when they would teach and certify instructor candidates themselves. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

The first three days of the training were held at Washington Corrections Center, and served to train fifteen male Roots instructors. At the same time, 6 of our exemplary and seasoned instructors earned their promotion to Master Trainer.

Several weeks prior to the big event, Master Trainer candidates from Stafford Creek Corrections Center, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center, and Washington State Penitentiary began studying Roots’ teaching aides. Roots of Success Director Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes led the course on the first day, and the 6 observed and took notes. Then she handed  the reigns over to the future Master Trainers; for two days, they took turns leading the class.

Master Trainers follow the day’s agenda with their training scripts as they take notes on Dr. Pinderhughes teaching techniques. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Master Trainer candidates used their training scripts to follow each lesson as they took notes on Dr. Pinderhughes’ teaching techniques. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

The Stafford Creek Master Trainer team- Cyril Walrond, David Duhaime, and Grady Mitchell- teach instructor candidates for the first time. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

On day 2, the Stafford Creek Master Trainer team–Cyril Walrond, David Duhaime, and Grady Mitchell–taught instructor candidates for the first time. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Dr. Pinderhughes met with the Master Trainer candidates for several hours after each training day to review notes, give and receive critiques, and hone their instructional skills. These Master Trainers now have the credentials to train and certify new instructors for the program. Certifying Master Trainers is a major accomplishment for SPP-WA & WDOC; Roots of Success has become nearly self-sustaining. This valuable education program is gaining momentum, and graduating hundreds of students across the state.

Congratulations to all the newly certified Roots of Success Master Trainers and Instructors! A giant Thank You goes out to Roots staff, Master Trainers, new instructors, WDOC staff, and SPP GRAs for helping us take this monumental step forward in our Roots of Success program!!!

Men from Clallam Bay and Larch Corrections Center attend the Roots of Success Instructor certification course May 10, 2015. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Men from Clallam Bay and Larch Corrections Center attended the Roots of Success Instructor certification course so that they could teach the environmental literacy program at their facilities. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Kieth Parkins, Roots Master Trainer from WSP, works with a future Roots of Success instructor. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Kieth Parkins, Roots Master Trainer candidate from WSP, works one-on-one with a future Roots of Success instructor during a class exercise. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Grady Mitchell, Stafford Creek Roots Master Trainer, takes the helm of the Roots classroom. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

For a few hours, Grady Mitchell, Stafford Creek Roots Master Trainer, took the helm of the Roots instructor classroom. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Roots instructors are most successful when they work as teaching teams. Here Cyril Walrond, Stafford Creek Roots Master Trainer, takes notes on the chalkboard and engages students as they describe the characteristics of their future students. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Roots instructors are most successful when they work as teaching teams. Here Cyril Walrond, Stafford Creek Roots Master Trainer candidate, challenges students to describe the characteristics of their future students. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Aliesha Baldé, Roots of Success staff, documented the entire training via photograph and video. Master Trainers use the videos as a training tool to refine their instruction techniques. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Aliesha Baldé, Roots of Success staff, documented the entire training via photograph and video. Master Trainers used the videos as a training tool to refine their instruction techniques. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Be on the look out for Part 2 of the photo gallery with highlights from the Roots of Success training with the women at Washington Corrections Center for Women and Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.

Flight of the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies

By Christina Stalnaker, SPP Graduate Research Assistant and Roots of Success Coordinator

It was a smaller crowd than usual: two males fluttered around a single female. The lighting was ideal and temperature at just the right degree for a successful pairing. As these butterflies moved in their miniature habitat, two inmate technicians quietly watched to verify if they had a fruitful engagement. We had just entered the greenhouse of the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (TCB) captive rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women on an early spring morning.

A technician waters flowers that will be placed in TCB habitats for captive rearing. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

A technician waters flowers that will be placed in TCB habitats for captive rearing. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

These butterflies were the first of their cohort to eclose, marking the beginning of TCB flight season. Eclosure is one of the final stages of a Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly’s life cycle—it occurs when the butterfly emerges from its cocoon. When the remaining butterflies join them in flight, the technicians will place two females and up to seven males in an insect habitat. Lindsey Hamilton, SPP’s TCB program coordinator, later explained to me that placing so many in the habitat at once ignites the male’s competitive behavior. In the wild, TCB males can be found next to a female pupa, waiting for her to eclose.

Having just emerged from its cocoon, a Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly patiently waits to feed on honey and take flight for the first time. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Having just eclosed (emerged from its cocoon), a Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly patiently waits to feed on honey water and take flight for the first time. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

The technicians had been waiting for us to arrive at the prison’s greenhouse to “process” two more butterflies that had just completed eclosion. The word “process” is far too ordinary to describe this next step in caring for these beautiful, endangered butterflies. Upon emergence, the butterflies patiently wait in their tiny container for at least 24 hours before feeding on honey water and taking flight. I had never handled butterflies before and was pretty nervous. Elizabeth Louie, TCB inmate technician, proudly demonstrated how to handle and process the delicate insects. After she showed me exactly what to do from start to finish, I went on to process the second TCB on my own.

Name?, TCB technician, shows Christina how to "process" an eclosed butterfly. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton,

Elizabeth Louie, TCB inmate technician, shows Christina Stalnaker how to “process” an eclosed butterfly. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

First, we recorded the ID number and color code. Next, we removed the mesh caging and the TCB from its insect cup, gently pinch its wings, and closely examined the butterfly to determine if it is a male or female. Mine was female; I could tell by looking at the tip of the abdomen. Females have a pointed tip at the end of their abdomen, whereas males’ are more rounded. After placing her on the balance, we recorded her weight. Swirling the end of a q-tip in the honey water and teasing her proboscis with a paperclip, I set her down and watched as she tasted her first drops of honey as a butterfly.

A Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly enjoys her first taste of honey water. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

A Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly enjoys her first taste of honey water. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

Once captive rearing is complete and the females finish laying their eggs, the butterflies are released to various South Sound Prairies, like the Glacial Heritage Preserve (photographed below). Here they will live the remainder of their lives, and we hope that they continue to mate and lay eggs in their native habitat to bolster populations directly.

Home of the mysterious Mima Mounds and a critical habitat for Taylor's Checkerspot Butterflies, Glacial Heritage Preserve is managed by many of our partners to ensure they continued survival of these beautiful butterflies. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Home of the mysterious Mima Mounds and a critical habitat for Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies, Glacial Heritage Preserve is intensively managed by our partners to ensure the continued survival of these beautiful butterflies. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Yellow and red flags mark areas of Glacial Heritage Preserve with prairie plants cultivated to enhance TCB habitat. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Yellow and red flags mark areas of Glacial Heritage Preserve with prairie plants cultivated to enhance TCB habitat. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Gardens at Airway Heights Corrections Center

by SPP Network Manager, Joslyn Rose Trivett
All photos by AHCC staff.

A gardener at Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) harvest carrots from one of the gardens on the campus. Photo by DOC staff.

A gardener at Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) harvest carrots from one of the gardens on the campus.

Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC), located near Spokane, Washington, has abundant vegetable gardens. There is a huge main garden, and nearly every living unit has its own courtyard garden. Inmates tend these gardens, and send the produce to the prison’s kitchen; their harvest goes to inmate-dining halls.
Nearly every living unit at AHCC has a courtyard garden.

Nearly every living unit at AHCC has a courtyard garden, growing produce in the eastern Washington sunshine.

Volunteers from the nearby community support and enhance the gardening program. Two community volunteers work with the K-Unit (a living unit) Seniors in the K Unit garden. A Washington State University (WSU) Spokane County Extension Horticulture Specialist, Jeremy Cowan, makes presentations to all inmates active in the program, and consults on every garden at the prison. DOC staff Kraig Witt, a Recreation Specialist, and Lt. Leonard Mayfield also are integral to operations, and do a wonderful job of coordinating all the gardens.

Inmates in the kitchen process vegetables grown on-site, and on their way to the prison menu.

Cooks process vegetables grown on-site, preparing them for inmates’ dining hall.

Many thanks to all involved for their dedication to the gardens. The bring nature inside and healthy, delicious food to the menu.

Update June 29, 2015

The gardens at AHCC are thriving, and on track to out-produce last year. Here are photos from only a few days ago:

Welcome garden is in bloom!

Welcome garden is in bloom!

AHCC-gardens-June-2015-3

The prison’s main garden is showing acres of healthy crops.

A living unit garden and surrounding grounds are lush and green.

A living unit garden and surrounding grounds are lush and green.

Impact!

By Samantha Turner,  Butterfly Technician at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

I have had a negative impact on many things throughout my life.  As much as I hate to bring to light all my defects, I would have to say that I have had more negative than positive influences in the past.

I find myself today actively changing this pattern.  I strive to do what is right.  Being a part of the Sustainability in Prisons Project’s (SPP) Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program has given me a huge opportunity to make an impact in a majorly positive way.  I’m learning so much in this program and all the while I find my life is comparable to the cycle of these butterflies’ lives.

I’m shedding my old skin to morph into a new person.

Technician Samantha Turner with a post-diapause larvae bin. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Technician Samantha Turner works with a postdiapause larvae bin. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Samantha is diligently taking notes in order to track each individual butterfly through it's transformation.  Photo by Jody Becker-Green.

Samantha is diligently taking notes in order to track each individual butterfly through its transformation. Photo by Jody Becker-Green.

This program is fighting to keep the Taylor’s checkerspot alive.  Along with saving their lives, I am fighting to save mine.  So, the SPP program is majorly impacting not only the butterflies’ lives, but my life, and preserving a fighting chance at a future for both of us.

Checkerspot larvae are social insects.  They often follow each other around and eat together.  Photo by inmate technician

Checkerspot larvae are social insects. They often follow each other around and eat together. Photo by inmate technician

Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women butterfly technicians. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women butterfly technicians posed by a garden where they grow food for the caterpillars. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Thank you for this program and I look forward to all the possibilities.

New Turtle & Frog Technicians

We recently hired two new inmate technicians that bring exciting new skills to the Frog and Turtle Program! Inmate technician Anglemyer is an aspiring journalist and inmate technician Boysen has skills in plumbing and mechanics. Both technicians have already proven to be great assets to the frog and turtle program by improving the frog and turtle tank structures. Under their care, the Oregon spotted frog tadpoles are strong and healthy and the western pond turtles are doing great!

Anglemyer and Boysen in the turtle facility.  Photo Credit: Sadie Gilliom

Anglemyer and Boysen in the turtle facility. Photo Credit: Sadie Gilliom

Here is an excerpt from Anglemyer’s cover letter that expresses his dedication to the frog and turtle program:

Seeking Turtles

Goals

With his interest in journalism, we hope to hear more about his experience with the frogs and turtles in the future! We are excited to see what both Anglemyer and Boysen continue to bring to the program!

Beds for Violets at Washington Corrections Center: Building SPP’s newest conservation nursery!

By Conrad Ely
SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator, Shotwell’s Landing

Tuesday March 24, a Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) nursery crew—Carl Elliott, Ricky Johnson & I—set out for Shelton to meet with Don Carlstad, the Facilities Manager at the Washington Correction Center (WCC). We were also joined by Tom Urvina and Scott Shankland of the JBLM “Wounded Warriors”; they were volunteering their time to help our labor-strapped crew undertake this beast-of-a-job. The project looked simple on paper: build twenty-eight garden beds (32’ x 4’ x 1’) in three days. However, Carl—the brains of the operation (and SPP’s Conservation Nursery Manager)—wisely left off the schematic that the beds would be sitting atop (within?) an area that inmates call “the swamp”. But that information wouldn’t become relevant until day two.

The site at Washington Correction Center (WCC)) that would host the Viola beds.

The site at Washington Correction Center (WCC) that would host the Viola beds.

The site plan for the 28 nursery beds; looked so simple on paper!

The site plan for the 28 nursery beds looked so simple on paper!

When we arrived on location, the field we were set to build on was vast and vacant, a canvas for our carpentry. After a careful examination of our blueprints, the tools were distributed and construction began. We worked slowly and deliberately at first. Our measurements were precise and each screw was carefully placed. The first few boxes involved all hands on deck as we fleshed out the most logical and efficient methods. Once we completed the fourth bed, half of the team split off to help fill in the soil as it was ferried over by the tractor load driven by Don Carlstad. By the end of day one, we had eight beds completed.

Scott and Tom build one of the first beds.

Scott and Tom build one of the first beds.

Wednesday we woke to a soggy March morning on the Olympic Peninsula. Luckily we brought reinforcements: Dennis Aubrey, Kenney Burke, and Josiah Falco of the JBLM “Wounded Warriors” program and Allie Denzler of SPP. They helped us battle the elements. Indeed, our field of dreams had turned to a wetland of inconvenience overnight. The shin-deep mud puddles were an inopportune foundation for our garden beds and the rain seemed to double the weight of our lumber as it became saturated, but we persevered nonetheless. With our finely-honed carpentry skills, we pushed forward like athletes on the gridiron, unshaken by any physical distraction. We focused solely on each repetition, working as a team to achieve something none of us could have done alone. And despite the weather, we easily doubled our output from the day before.

We worked in puddles on day two.

The team worked in puddles on day two.

Even in the downpour, the team kept up a high level of carpentry excellence.

Even in the downpour, the team kept up a high level of carpentry excellence.

On day three we were welcomed back to WCC by the glorious sunshine and beauty of springtime in Western Washington. After working in slow motion day one, as we got acquainted with the process, and running the gauntlet day two to build twice as fast in the midst of a monsoon, day three was as satisfying a final day as we could ask for! Not only were we done with time to spare, but befitting the spring weather, we ended with more beds than we had planned: a bonus 29th box!

A tractor fills the final bed with soil.

A tractor dumps soil into the last bed.

The final product: 29 beds are ready for violet plants!

The final product: 29 beds are ready for violet plants!

The process of turning a pile of fresh lumber and a box of screws into an opportunity for environmental education and restoration is not unlike the metamorphosis a caterpillar undergoes as it becomes a butterfly. With thanks to the JBLM “Wounded Warriors”, and help from our partnership with WDOC, we hope this new program will also take flight and promote sustainability at WCC for years to come!

Sustainability… in Prison? SPP Coordinator and MES Graduate Candidate, Tiffany Webb, shares her experience of working in prisons

By Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator

Cross posted from the Evergreen State College, Master of Environmental Studies Program blog.

I don’t think I have ever encountered anyone with dreams and aspirations of working in a prison. I can certainly say I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I applied for an internship position with the Sustainability in Prisons Project in 2013. I was set on Evergreen’s Master of Environmental Studies Program, but wasn’t quite sure where my professional life was headed.

Nature Drawing Workshop at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Dr. Carri LeRoy, SPP Co-Director and Evergreen Faculty.

Nature Drawing Workshop at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Dr. Carri LeRoy, SPP Co-Director and Evergreen Faculty.

Moving from Alabama to Washington State was a huge step, but I was excited and ready. I had just finished my B.S. in earth system science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, completed a grant-funded sustainability project, and rounded out some climate vulnerability work I had been doing with the NASA DEVELOP National Program.

Now I was looking for exciting justice-oriented work in my new Olympia home, and SPP offered that. But I found myself questioning my place in prisons. How could I fundamentally disagree with a system, yet work within it? Even further, how can I apply “sustainability” to a system I don’t actually wish to sustain? These questions have been a driving force throughout my time with SPP. I have worked with the Sustainability in Prisons Project for nearly two years now, and have come to realize the importance of inside-out change makers. So often, those who want to make broad-scale cultural and systemic change clash with institutions of power, sometimes stifling the efficacy of their campaigns. SPP has taken a unique approach by forming a long-term partnership with such an institution, while simultaneously initiating programs that benefit those who are currently incarcerated. From organic gardens to inmate-led environmental classrooms, the SPP model has been integrated widely in WA prisons over the past 10 years. This has inspired changes within individual prison facilities and more broadly across the entire department of corrections—SPP now has a national network!

 

Talking with a few women after a lecture at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW). Photo by Lindsey Hamilton, SPP Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly Coordinator.

Talking with a few women after a lecture at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW). Photo by Lindsey Hamilton, SPP Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Coordinator.

SPP is also connected to Evergreen, which allows a bridge between higher education, students and faculty, prisons and staff, and prisoners. Through the partnership between Evergreen and Washington State corrections, I am not only able to learn about issues of mass incarceration and theories of prison reform within a classroom, but I am actually able to be part of providing resources and educational programs for incarcerated men and women. Inmates constantly express interest in environmental resources and information for how to be part of the green economy once they are released, and it has been eye-opening to try and meet their needs. This is a population and perspective that many environmental organizations tend to neglect and I have witnessed the importance of these incarcerated individuals within the broader environmental discussion.

Presenting one of the first rounds of certificates to inmates who regularly attend the lecture series. Photo by Joslyn Trivett, SPP Network Manager.

Presenting one of the first rounds of certificates to inmates who regularly attend the lecture series. Photo by Joslyn Trivett, SPP Network Manager.

Presenting at SCCC. Photo by John Dominoski, DOC Staff at SCCC.

Presenting at SCCC. Photo by John Dominoski, DOC Staff at SCCC.

Working with corrections staff, prisoners, and environmental community organizations has broadened my understanding of environmental justice— just how many populations are we leaving out of environmental initiatives? This position has inspired me to speak out as an ally for incarcerated individuals and to further advocate for prison reform, both from an environmental and social justice lens. I plan to stay involved with SPP and volunteer with other organizations working inside prisons, with ex-felons, as well as tackling prison policy and other issues in the criminal justice system. While this endeavor has presented a plethora of professional opportunities, the most important thing it has offered me is the experience of meaningful work with people who have a diverse range of perspectives and interests. This is an experience I will carry with me far beyond my time at Evergreen and with SPP.

SPP program coordinators with the WCCW SPP Liaison after a virtual tour of sustainability programs.

SPP program coordinators with the WCCW SPP Liaison after a virtual tour of sustainability programs.

I am sad to be leaving my position this year, but excited to know that a fresh mind will be joining the program. Leaving SPP also means losing connection with some of the most inspirational people I have met: prisoners who teach and facilitate environmental courses; people of color who empower themselves and fellow prisoners through amazing spoken word and art pieces about racism in America and the criminal justice system; and even corrections staff who are trying to make prison conditions better, dedicating what little spare time they have to supporting and furthering SPP programs. That doesn’t begin to cover the surprising range of inspiration I have felt in prisons; these memories and emotions will be with me no matter where my journey takes me next.

Talking with a woman at WCCW before the lecture with Yoga Behind Bars. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

Talking with a woman at WCCW before the lecture with Yoga Behind Bars. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.