On this page we offer a sampling testimonials and writings shared with us by inmates who work and learn in SPP programs. You may also hear their voices in many of our posted videos.
Work with Rare and Endangered Species
“For 25 years I hated my job…I love coming here.”
~ Butterfly technician in the Taylor’s checkerspot rearing and breeding program
“This program has really enlightened my heart and mind, opening my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity. It’s taught me how to be consistent, responsible, great job ethics, and communication skills. These are tools I didn’t possess in my younger years. I finally can give back to society in my own special kind of way, doing something I never could imagine myself doing.”
~ Turtle technician in the western pond turtle care program
“My first indication that I was not alone in seeing the value of Roots of Success was in speaking with my fellow instructors, who came from a variety of backgrounds and had a broad range of views about world politics. Every one of them found some area of the curriculum where they connected and developed genuine passion. That provided some reassurance.”
~ instructor for Roots of Success
“The program is called Roots of Success, but it feels like the course is a seed planted in our minds.”
~ student of Roots of Success
“I really enjoyed the lecture. I was comfortable and able to participate without feeling like I was stupid. It was nice to be included. And it helps a person learn. Please sign me up for the next lecture.”
~ student of the Science and Sustainability Lecture Series
“I’m not trying to get you to turn off the water so you stop sticking it to the man. I’m trying to get you to turn off the water so that you’ll be a better human being.”
~ instructor for the Redemption program and sign shop technician in the Sustainable Practices Lab
“I could say anything about who I have become yet I will let the actions I take each day speak for themselves. I have had much healing and restoration that I can only credit to a mind that has been transformed in much the same way as the composting process. I am actively involved in my own recovery. ”
~ technician in a composting program, comparing his person transformation while in prison to the transformation of food waste to compost (excerpt)
“I feel as though the information I’ve accumulated from this experience is one of my most cherished possessions. And this is why: gardening is all about rebirth.”
~ Gardener at Cedar Creek Corrections Center
“I’ve been in prison a long time and there’s nothing like SPP. There’s nothing else like it.”
~ founder of the worm composting and rearing program at Monroe Correctional Complex
“In 2011, I was hired into the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center dog program. It was a life changer. Prison was not so lonely no more. ..the unconditional love that these “broken down dogs” provided me was transforming in my behaviors. My 2nd chance at life had begun!”
~ dog trainer in Ridge Dogs, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center inmate-run dog program
“Never in my life—and I am 60 years old—I never in my life wanted to get up and go to work until I got this job.”
~ teddy bear program founder at the Sustainable Practices Lab, while sewing teddy bears from reclaimed fabric
Voices in Writing
Hard Time Café
By Austin Mays, an inmate, student, and cook at Stafford Creek Correction Center
Written November, 2014
The way food is prepared is an art. From the choice to the plate, it’s all about painting a picture. I live in a world where the art is lost. The simple things that make food taste good have been removed and replaced with mayonnaise labeled as “salad dressing”. When the best part of the meal is the water, you know something’s wrong.
My name is Austin Mays and I have been eating this food since I was 15 years old. This food is in prison. You may automatically put up your guard reading this, but I encourage you to keep an open mind.
After serving 10+ years, I have seen that the price of food has increased exponentially and in turn nutritious foods have fallen out of the reach of the budget. Feeding 1900+ inmates at one facility is quite expensive.
Fresh vegetables make all the difference
In 2013, I began a job that opened my eyes to the larger picture. I became chef in the “Hard Time Café”. This is the dining hall for all staff. On a daily basis I, along with three other individuals, serve anywhere from 40-60 staff members. What do we serve them? Leftovers. We dress up the meal that was previously served to the 1900 other inmates. A difference between the “Hard Time Café” and the main chow halls is the fresh vegetables. Each day, a salad bar is prepared with mushrooms, tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers, carrots, celery, fresh green leaf salad, and four premade salads. This is a lot of produce used daily.
Stafford Creek Corrections Center has been taking measurable steps in the direction towards becoming more self-sustaining. In the last four months, I have been able to use the produce grown by the sustainability garden in all of my salads and main course meals. For example, in October 2014, the garden produced close to a hundred pumpkins. Now, November, we are gearing up to make homemade pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner. Pumpkin pies are nearly $5.00 a piece and purchasing enough for 1900 inmates would hold a heavy price tag.
Prison is its own city
Living in a place where you have little outside interaction causes you to be left behind. We, in prison, fail to see the world consuming itself. I recently graduated from “Roots of Success” (an environmental literacy curriculum) and during this course my eyes were opened. Prison is its own city. The overhead is huge and anyway we can work together to create the best living conditions, by using the natural resources around us, is the best way.
Sustainability is not about cutting cost. It’s about changing your lifestyle and taking into account the future of your children. We are a world that feels the need to consume. Why? Because our parents tried to teach us what their parents taught them. Once we prove them wrong, we write our own path and neglect to see the big picture. Instant gratification, I want what I want and I want it now.
So, next time you buy a tomato or cut an onion, think of how far it traveled, how long it took to grow, how much money was spent on labor to process it, and how much you enjoy it. Think of… the “Hard Time Café”.
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.
So I find myself today actively changing this. 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 major positive way. I’m learning so much in this program and all the while my life is comparable to the cycle of these butterflies’ lives.
I’m shedding my old skin to morph into a new person.
This program is fighting to keep the Taylor’s checkerspot alive, and along with saving their lives, I am fighting to save mine. So, the SPP program is majorly impacting not only my life, but the butterflies’ lives, and preserving a fighting chance at a future.
Thank you for this program and I look forward to all the possibilities.