In Service to the Earth

Mike Brown, a student in Mr. Scott Knapp’s horticulture class at Cedar Creek Corrections Center shared his poem with Mr. Knapp, who then shared it with us.  With Mr. Brown’s permission,  we now share it with all of you:

In Service to the Earth

To those who heal and protect the earth

In all ways and large.

To those who throw a protective shield ‘gainst

Industries toxic barge.

 

Endangered Checkerspot Butterfly from Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by SPP Staff

Endangered Checkerspot Butterfly from Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by SPP Staff.

 

Valued be the composters; gardeners;

Breeders of worms; frogs; bees and soil renewers.

To those who train dogs for the military vet;

Much appreciation, though we’ve never met.

To those who choose to purify the air.

Makers of clean water…all share,

From rivers, lakes, creeks and sea’s.

To those who plant trees.

 

Rearing Endangered Frogs. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

 

Valued are those who heal the prairies,

Grasslands, and renew the seeds.

Those who fight pollution by recycling and restore

The lore of fisheries

Herbs of plants (their healing salve),

Wildflowers that feed the gopher, butterfly,

And larks in the sky.

Valued are those who ask questions, “Why?”

 

Amending the Soil. Photo by SPP Staff.

 

Valued are those who heal cities.

Healing to them for whom the flock flows slowly.

To those with excitement and creativity.

Those who promote prison sustainability.

Beekeeping at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by SPP Staff

Beekeeping at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by SPP Staff.

Valued are those who’s wounded and bled,

Who risk themselves in service to the earth.

To all who give, nature will sing:

“Thank you for life,” courtesy of everything!”

-Mike Brown

Going Above and Beyond for Sustainability

by SPP Program Coordinator, Sadie Gilliom

DOC Classifications Counselor, Gina Sibley was the SPP liaison for Cedar Creek Corrections Center for almost two years.  We want to thank her for her partnership and support and congratulate her on her recent promotion.  She will be missed!

Gina Sibley always went above and beyond while supervising the technicians in the bee, turtle and frog programs at Cedar Creek.  Supervising was not all she did.

Ms. Sibley Teaching About Bees

Ms. Sibley Teaching About Bees. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

She joined in the experience by participating in seminars on science journal articles, facilitating the creation of a turtle emergency response team,  staying late to participate in and supervise the bee keeping certification classes, assisting in capturing honey bee swarms, coordinating clearances for tours of the program and the list goes on!

Ms. Sibley Helping Mr. Boysen Measure Shank Length

Ms. Sibley helping turtle technician Mr. Boysen measure an endangered Oregon spotted frog. Photo by Sadie Gilliom

Thank you so much, Gina.  You have made your mark on SPP and we know you will continue spreading the word of science and sustainability wherever you go.

Ms. Sibley and the Tomato

Ms. Sibley with a tomato grown in the aquaponics greenhouse. Photo by SPP staff

Saving Resources at Airway Heights Corrections Center

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

Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) is located in eastern Washington, far from the environmental activism of the Puget Sound. Yet, the prison has become a statewide leader for conserving and recycling resources.  

AHCC is a model for energy conservation. Facility staff regularly check and restore their equipment, fixing it before it breaks. The approach improves performance and life expectancy, and staves off epic fails. By practicing preventative maintenance, they have become a model of efficiency.

garbageThe prison has also set the standard for sorting waste. Without any fancy equipment, they have figured out how to turn the waste stream into valuable commodities. They sort their waste at the source, or “up stream.” Every day, porters (we call them waste stream technicians) sort the waste stream into dedicated cans, and the results are impressive. Nearly everything is reclaimed or recycled; all that’s left is a tiny can of mixed-materials (see photo).

laughing-about-garbage

A porter (waste stream technician), AHCC’s Kraig Witt, and Sustainable Operations Manager Julie Vanneste discuss that it’s hard to know what “garbage” means anymore.

In the many gardens, staff and inmates have transformed hardpan into thriving soil with compost. They use no fertilizers or pesticides, and make their compost in small batches on site. The result is gorgeous, healthy produce.

An inmate gardener harvests high quality radishes outside his living unit. Each living unit has its own garden, and each has its own personality. The three gardeners who were tending this one with enormous enthusiasm.

An gardener harvests radishes outside his living unit.

Each living unit has its own garden, and each garden has its own personality, shaped by the gardeners who tend it. The three gardeners I met showed enormous enthusiasm for the work. They turned 1 strawberry plant into 1,200. They gleaned tomato and cantaloupe seeds from cafeteria food. They figured out how to reclaim seeds from everything they grow. They can boast a truly closed-loop system!

garlic-farmer

This Horticulture Porter said that adding masses of compost transformed this area from an unproductive low spot to the gorgeous plantings of garlic there now.

Larch Corrections Center – An Upcoming Beekeeper’s Paradise

SPP had another fantastic meeting with Larch Corrections Center. We went to the prison to talk about beekeeping and were met with enthusiasm for this new educational program.

Sadie Gilliom meets with the turtle technicians. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom meets with the turtle technicians. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Larch has a turtle program that has been wildly successful. In partnership with the Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and others, endangered Western Pond Turtles with a shell disease came to Larch for rest and recuperation. The technicians did such a wonderful job caring for the turtles that they were all released back into the wild earlier this season! While they await the arrival of more turtles this fall, the technicians are pursuing a new science education opportunity- beekeeping. With support from SPP and beekeeping partners, Larch Corrections Center plans to offer an apprentice level beekeeping certification class sometime this fall.

Sadie Gilliom, Emily Passarelli, and Shawn Piliponis discuss beekeeping at Larch. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom, Emily Passarelli, and CC2 Shawn Piliponis discuss beekeeping at Larch. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

This course will not only educate technicians to be state certified beekeepers, but may also provide opportunities to assist in hive research. In addition, with the help of Classification Counselor 2 Shawn Piliponis, technicians are piloting a program to build bee hives out of recycled, untreated pallet wood. They eventually want to donate the bee boxes to local schools and organizations to support pollinator recovery. Programs like these can reduce idleness among incarcerated individuals. Reduced idleness leads to reduced violence and infractions.

While there aren’t any bees at the prison yet, Stafford Creek Corrections Center is generously donating one of their hives so Larch can get started this August. Next season we aim to have six hives of two different hive types in operation.

We are confident this collaborative program will be a great success with education at the center of the endeavor!

 

Airway Heights Abuzz with Beekeeping

By Kay Heinrich, Associate Superintendent at Airway Heights Corrections Center

AIRWAY HEIGHTS — Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) has introduced honeybees to not only help the facility’s gardens but to sustain a healthy bee population for AHCC and the local community.

The four beehives will provide an educational opportunity in sustainability and help improve local community for AHCC. Photo by DOC Staff.

The four beehives will provide an educational opportunity in sustainability and help improve local community for AHCC. Photo by DOC Staff.

The four bee hives arrived this summer, courtesy of Jim Miller, a master beekeeper associated with the West Plains Beekeepers Association and members of AHCC sustainability committee. The bee hives are located near the facility gardens with access to a water source, and safely out of the way of normal foot traffic. Participation in the bee program is highly competitive and increases facility safety by serving an incentive for infraction-free behavior as part of the application and screening process.

Two incarcerated individuals begin their educational work with the honeybees. Photo by DOC Staff.

Two incarcerated individuals begin their educational work with the honeybees. Photo by DOC Staff.

The master beekeeper is facilitating a class for those interested in becoming certified bee apprentices. Completion of the course and passing of the Washington State Beekeepers Apprentice Certification will qualify a participant as an apprentice beekeeper. The goal is to include multiple groups in working together for safer communities through knowledge, education and collaboration.

Over the past year, the gardens, bees, vermiculture, recycling, and providing wood for local community members in need during the winter months has been engaging and a uniting effort for staff and inmates to work toward a sustainable environment and a way to give back to the community. The sustainability projects have earned enthusiasm from staff and provided hope and education for the incarcerated population.

Setting up the new beehives on arrival. Photo by DOC Staff.

Setting up the new beehives on arrival. Photo by DOC Staff.

The Washington State Department of Corrections has earned a national reputation for its efforts to make both its operations and facilities more sustainable while increasing facility safety. By being innovative and forming unique partnerships, such as the Sustainability in Prisons Project, facilities have been made safer through reduced infractions and the incarcerated population has been provided with new skill sets while being meaningfully engaged.

Larch Corrections Center – Ricky Osborne Photo Gallery

A special thanks is in order for Ricky Osborne! He’s doing an internship with SPP this summer. He’s been coming along with us on our prisons visits and taking amazing photos of our programs. Check out these photos from our recent trip to Larch Corrections Center. Thanks Ricky for the fantastic pictures!

Sadie Gilliom meets with the turtle technicians. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom meets with the turtle technicians. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom, Emily Passarelli, and Shawn Piliponis discuss beekeeping at Larch. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom, Emily Passarelli, and Shawn Piliponis discuss beekeeping at Larch. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

An incarcerated individual proudly shows off the cat he is rehabilitating. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

An incarcerated individual proudly shows off the cat he is rehabilitating. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Another member of Larch's cat program poses with his cat. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Another member of Larch’s cat program poses with his cat. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

A houseplant in one of the living units. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

A houseplant in one of the living units. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sagebrush in Prisons Project

by Gretchen Graber, native plant grower and educator, Institute for Applied Ecology

Sagebrush nursery partners stand together in the hoop house. From left to right, they are Mr. Bowen, Ms. Graber, Ms. Olwell, Ms. Erickson, Mrs. Trainer and Mr. Le. Photo by Washington DOC staff.

The iconic greater sage-grouse, a species recently considered for endangered species listing, is getting a helping hand from a unique set of partners: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE), and Sustainability in Prison’s Project (SPP).

Peggy Olwell, the National Plant Materials Program Lead, BLM-Washington D.C. and Vicky Erickson, geneticist for the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Region visited the “Sagebrush in Prisons Project,” at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, WA, on June 3rd. BLM is sponsoring the program propagating 43,300 Wyoming Big Sage and Three-tip sagebrush, plants that will be carefully nurtured over the summer months and planted out in burned shrub-steppe habitat managed by BLM, this November in Douglas County, WA.

Conservation technicians tend to the growing sagebrush in the nursery at CRCC. Photo by Meagan Murray.

Conservation technicians tend to the growing sagebrush in the nursery at CRCC. Photo by Meagan Murray.

The tour was given by Sam Harris and Dorothy Trainer of Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) and Gretchen Graber, native plant grower and educator with IAE. Olwell and Erickson were able to witness the intangible benefits of the program while meeting the inmates and supporting DOC staff that are growing the sagebrush.  “Community is being created within DOC as a result of the project,” said Mr. Harris. “Coyote Ridge staff have excelled at managing the new program and special thanks goes to Dorothy Trainer and Sam Harris for their intelligent management of the program,” said Graber.

This is an example of healthy sagebrush landscape in central Oregon. Photo by Joseph Weldon, Wildlife Biologist, BLM.

This is an example of healthy sagebrush landscape in central Oregon. Photo by Joseph Weldon, Wildlife Biologist, BLM.

Areas where the sagebrush will be planted are occupied by greater sage-grouse, the species targeted for population increase and recovery. The partnership among BLM, Washington DOC, IAE is part of an unprecedented effort to prevent endangered species listing of the grouse.

Greater sage-grouse are unique from other grouse species in not having a muscular crop used for digesting hard seeds. They forage on sagebrush leaves, herbaceous perennials and insects. Planting genetically appropriate sagebrush species from locally derived genetic sources provides important food and crucial habitat for the birds.

Olwell and Erickson also viewed a living quarters unit, met and talked with several dog training inmates and petted a puppy during their tour at CRCC. “Here’s to a positive future for the greater sage-grouse and to more sagebrush,” commented Olwell.

 

Princess Remington and Pele: Royalty in a prison classroom

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Vulture-and-students

June’s lecture at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) welcomed royalty from West Sound Wildlife Shelter. I had met Pele, Fire Goddess and falcon (a kestrel), once before, and she was as impressive as ever. However, never before had I met a turkey vulture, and I was immediately smitten with Princess Remington.

Princess-Remington

Princess Remington was named for the gun that disabled her left wing during a flight over Shelton. Now she graces classrooms throughout the Puget Sound so that students can discover the magnificence of turkey vultures.

The Princess’ handler is Fawn Harris, our coordinator for the conservation nursery at Washington Corrections Center. She also is staff at West Sound Wildlife Shelter, and she answered nearly an hour of questions on turkey vultures. We learned that turkey vultures are social birds. They travel in groups and are monogamous. Fawn says that if she offers Princess Remington food she does not like, the vulture will still remember and express her dissatisfaction with Fawn a week later.

Fawn told us that Princess Remington was unusually at-ease in this classroom. She bowed to the assembled students!

Fawn-is-a-great-presenter

Fawn Harris clearly loves her work, and she shared a wealth of information about turkey vultures. Never again will I see them the same way.

While vultures are classified as raptors, they don’t have the typical talons or hooked beak. In fact, they are not capable of killing and they are rarely aggressive. Turkey vultures only eat animals that are already dead, finding them with an exceptional sense of smell. The acid in their stomach’s is comparable to battery acid, and diseases cannot pass through. By scavenging, they effectively remove maladies such as rabies, botulism, and cholera from the environment – without vultures, we would see far more of these nasty diseases.

Deb Wilbur of West Sound Wildlife Shelter describes the habits of kestrels, North America's smallest falcon.

Deb Wilbur of West Sound Wildlife Shelter describes the habits of kestrels.

Deb Wilbur told us about Pele. She is an American kestrel, North America’s smallest falcon. Deb fed Pele a baby mouse, and she tore it apart as the presentation went on. The crunching was audible to at least the first couple rows – gross and amazing! A special thanks to Deb who has volunteered her time at two or three other SPP lectures.

Lecture-students

kestrel-and-students

Deb took Pele for a tour of the classroom.

The lecture series students offered excellent questions to the presentation, and were fully attentive to the visiting royalty. At the lecture’s conclusion, one of them remarked to me “Another great lecture!” Holy cats, if they are all that good, I have got to start attending more of SPP lectures!

A Tribute to Tammy

By Sadie Gilliom, SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator;
All photos by Sadie Gilliom unless otherwise noted

Congratulations to Tammy Schmidt, our partner with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, on her new position! We are happy for you, Tammy, but sad to see you go.

Tammy Schmidt has dedicated much of her time in the past 3 years to the Western Pond Turtle Program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center.  As an expert in the endangered western pond turtles, this Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist shared her knowledge and passion for wildlife conservation and turtle care with me and eager technicians and correctional staff.

Shaking hands with a technician

Tammy shaking hands with a technician. (Note: We are respecting Tammy’s wish for privacy by not showing her face in photos.)

She brought her patience and great sense of humor to the program.  She always took the time to explain and answer the many questions we had — and repeat answers as new coordinators and technicians came into the program.

She came out to Cedar Creek once a month to check-up on the turtles’ wounds from their shell disease.  She trained the technicians and myself in how to monitor the wounds in the shells to make sure they were healing well. In case of any turtle emergency, she was the one we called.

Tammy examines a turtles shell

Tammy examining a turtles shell

Tammy examining a turtles shell.

She took the technicians out to the release site, showed them how they track the turtles, and how they protected their nests with a wire protector.

Tammy showing the technicians around the release site. Photo by Fiona Edwards

Tammy showing the technicians around the release site. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

I want to say a personal thanks to Tammy for her support during any health emergencies with the turtles, for sharing her knowledge, and for allowing me to assist with the annual exam of the turtles at the release site.

Me (Sadie) assisting Tammy with data collection

I (Sadie) assist Tammy with data collection.

Thank you, Tammy, for your huge role in making this program a possibility and for all of your support!  Best wishes on your new adventure!

Tales of Transformation

The "butterfly greenhouse" at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.

The “butterfly greenhouse” at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women. Photo by Seth Dorman.

Several butterfly technicians involved with the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Rearing Program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) have expressed how the SPP program has helped them further their education and while also impacting them personally. Susan Christopher has been with the program for almost two full seasons and expressed the following:

“I am currently incarcerated at Mission Creek Correction Center for Women (MCCCW) in Belfair, Washington. Last March I was selected to participate in the Sustainability in Prison Project’s (SPP) Butterfly Program as a Butterfly Rearing Technician.  I was excited, but had little knowledge or expectations about the program. Since then, I have been on an incredible journey through the world of science, biology, and my own spirit.

 This program is an amazing opportunity, especially considering the fact that I am in prison.  The responsibility of caring for an endangered species, adding to that, the responsibility of recording and maintaining all the correlating scientific data involved, has given me a sense of accomplishment unparalleled in my pre-prison life.  The trust awarded me by prison staff and all the SPP partners has also been a tremendous boost to my self-esteem.  Throughout this program, my thoughts and ideas are heard, considered, and utilized when applicable.  It’s an extremely important affirmation that what I’m doing is truly worthwhile.

Our successes in the program have also shown me that I can make a difference in this world, even from behind bars.  Each and every one of us has the ability to contribute to society in a positive way if given the chance.

I know that my involvement with this program has forever changed my life.  Everything from the sustainability of this planet to the beauty of the cycle of life has become a passion of mine.  As a result of that, I am also currently targeted to become an inmate instructor for the SPP-sponsored  “Roots of Success” program here at MCCCW.

Additionally, I can’t help but see the comparison of my life to that of the butterfly.  I have grown to love the butterfly in all of its life stages, but the miracle of its metamorphosis has come to symbolize the changes I’ve gone through in my own life.  I now understand that some struggles in life are necessary to shape who we are to become. 

I would like to thank everyone involved with this program for giving me the chance to view myself as one of God’s beautiful creatures, much like the Taylor Checkerspot Butterfly.  And because of that, I’m definitely looking forward to spreading my wings and using the wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained here upon my release back into the world.”

Very Respectfully,

Susan Christopher 

Susan Christopher making butterfly masks for Girls Scouts Behind Bars visiting the Butterfly Greenhouse.

Susan Christopher crafting butterfly masks for Girls Scouts Behind Bars scheduled to visit the Butterfly Greenhouse. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

Butterfly technician Kristina Faires was with the program for one full season and is now enrolled at The Evergreen State College for the fall quarter of 2016. Kristina said the following about her experiences with the Butterfly Program:

To be able to say, I love my job, is huge, but to say that I love my job in prison is monumental! My experience this last year working as a butterfly rearing technician with the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, an endangered species, has been incredible, to say the least. I have been fortunate to be given such an amazing opportunity.  This year alone my co-workers and I raised over 2,500 larvae that were later released back into their native prairie lowland habitat. There is a sense of accomplishment I feel knowing that our efforts are being recognized daily, in the form of restoring an endangered species. The acknowledgment our program receives from collaborators, staff and peers have been fundamental in realizing our potential on a personal basis as well as a professional one.

Being able to have this positive experience has triggered my own metamorphosis. I had forgotten how good it felt to be interested, absorbed and stimulated in something that matters. During my involvement with this program, I have developed a strong attachment to the natural world and a desire to continue my education in environmental studies. I am proud to say that I have been accepted to The Evergreen State College this fall with a scholarship as well as a nice financial aid package. I feel humbled when I look at the universe of living things that endure, evolve and flourish around me when I remember to slow down and look.”

-Kristina Faires

Kristina Faires "wakes up" sleeping butterfly larvae from their winter dormancy or diapause.

Kristina Faires “wakes up” sleeping butterfly larvae from their winter dormancy or diapause life stage. Photo by Seth Dorman.