Photos by SPP Science & Sustainability Lecture Series Coordinator, Liliana Caughman
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
Daniel C Carter, #838440
Larch Correction Center
Congrats to Mr. Carter and his fellow students and instructors for this fantastic feat!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
This speech was presented by Roots of Success graduate Robert Mayo on July 22, 2015; shared here with his permission.
My name is Robert Mayo and I’m here today because I completed Roots of Success.
I would like to take this moment to show the utmost respect and give gratitude towards all of those who were involved in Roots of Success.
First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes [Roots founder], Mr. Aleksinski [SCCC Roots Liaison and Classification Counselor] and the rest of the supporting cast up here today that made all of this possible. Next, I would like to thank Mr. Walrond, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Duhaime and Mr. Powers for doing such an amazing job instructing us. And lastly, I would like to thank all of us here today who are receiving certificates, because today we all proved to ourselves that hard work, dedication and determination truly pays off!
Before Roots of Success I had the mind frame to put things off until tomorrow. I was a procrastinatorand I hated to try anything new or anything I wasn’t good at. For example, PUBLIC SPEAKING! This has been one of my biggest fears throughout my entire life. Even as a kid, I can still recall the feelings I felt when having to speak in front of the class. My heartbeat would start to speed up. My hands would become all sweaty. My armpits would start to drip. And my mind would picture everyone in the classroom laughing at me. IT WAS HORRIBLE! I remember telling Mr. Walrond about this when I first started Roots of Success. He told me that by the end of this course not only will I be able to speak in front of any crowd, but I will be able to do it with confidence and conviction. That conversation was just a few short months ago and today I’m happy to be able to have Mr. Walrond’s prediction come to fruition.
You see, Roots of Success didn’t only teach me how to make my environment a better place for me to live in, but it also taught me how to become a better person within my environment. My favorite modules were “Community Organizing and Leadership” and “Financial Literacy and Social Entreprneurship.” These two modules really hit home for me. I never realized all the procedures being taken to make certain laws come into effect. I was unaware of people going to local town hall meetings to fight against the major corporations that are placing factories inside of their communities without their permission. Or the ongoing battle that’s been prevalent all across the U.S. between minorities and The Department of Justice on police brutality. Or the parents who protest constantly about the lack of education their children are receiving throughout their low income neighborhoods. If I choose to fight when I get out of here these are the types of fights that I want to be a part of. As a collective, we have the power to make a difference! We have the power to make our voices heard! We have the power to take action! So why don’t we?
In the “Financial Literacy and Social Entrepreneurship” module, I learned how to fill out an application correctly. I learned what I should wear, how I should talk and what I should do when going in for an interview. I know now how to set short and long term goals, how to budget my finances and how to live comfortably within my means. I got something from each and every module, but these were the two modules that woke me up the most. I’m done living life in a daydream and I’m ready to fight for what it is that I want.
Roots of success was essential to my growth. It was the first building-block to the foundation of my future. The only negative thing that I can say about Roots of Success, is that it’s already over. I hope that eventually there will be an additional course offered to us here at Stafford Creek. If possible, I would like to be the first person to sign up and I can guarantee you that many others would be soon to follow.
Roots of Success is a Success!
Before I leave here today I would like to mention three things that I can now say about living green.
I KNOW IT!
I LOVE IT!
AND I BELIEVE IN IT!
Thank you for your time.
For more information on the Roots of Success, please contact the program coordinator Emily Passarelli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mr. Anglemyer, inmate technician for the SPP Frog and Turtle Program
The dog days of summer have almost gone which means that it is harvest time for some of the vegetables that are growing here at Cedar Creek Corrections Center.
The gardens are tended by inmates and all the food grown goes to the institution’s kitchen for inmates to eat. Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, corn, peppers, lettuce, beans, squash and pumpkins are all being prepared in the kitchen. There’ll even be a small amount of tomatoes and strawberries.
Last year inmates grew close to twenty thousand pounds of produce. All this food will never see the inside of a can. It has all been grown organically — no pesticides or chemical fertilizers have been used in the growing process. Most of the compost used to amend the soil was made at the prison using leftover kitchen scraps (except for a layer of mushroom compost that was obtained locally).
The food will be a welcome change from the normal fare of processed, frozen, canned or bagged produce that is the norm in prisons. It is unfortunate that fresh produce only lasts for a few months, but three months is better than zero months; especially when some inmates among the population haven’t had access to fresh food for years — or even decades. The difference between organically grown garden fresh produce and the frozen, dyed, and chemically grown/preserved stuff is night and day.
There are some extra challenges this year due to the drought. We’re worried about water usage here just like everybody else on the west coast, but hopefully the lack of water won’t have a huge effect on crop yields. The inmates are doing a great job of using water efficiently and of recapturing where they can.
Many of us in the population are extremely grateful to the guys from the horticulture program whom work in the gardens, as well as the people at Centralia College and the Sustainability in Prisons Project who do their part in making the gardens possible. Fresh food makes the late summer and fall seasons here at Cedar Creek a special time.