By Graduate Research Associate Alicia LeDuc
SPP’s winter Science and Sustainability Lecture Series at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) in Gig Harbor, Washington marked another successful season of scientific outreach, with over 50 WCCW offenders and staff attending the lectures. The series focused on sustainable food practices and featured speakers from local non-profit agencies.
November: Food Cooperatives and Cob Construction
Diana Pisco, The Olympia Food Co-Op
Diana Pisco began the series with a presentation on food cooperatives and cob construction, a sustainable building method involving clay, straw, and basic tools. A former volunteer at WCCW, Pisco said she, “wanted to share what motivates me, to inspire these women about sustainability, local food production, and cobbing – something they could find very therapeutic as well as offer a skill they could use when they get out.” Cob construction techniques stimulated lively conversation, with one offender sharing that she had built her house using this method. The offenders’ enthusiasm inspired Pisco to donate books to the prison’s library.
December: Edible Forest Gardens
Michael Kelly, Terra Commons
Michael Kelly introduced edible forest gardens, a landscaping technique that mimics a forest ecosystem and supports naturally high yields of produce. WCCW horticulture students engaged Kelly in scientific conversation about the plants and techniques featured, comparing them with the prison’s program. Kelly left offenders with printed resources about forest gardens, possible career paths, and ideas of how WCCW can implement sustainable practices in their gardens.
January: Organic Farming
Lydia Beth Leimbach, Left Foot Organics
Lydia Beth Leimbach spoke on organic farming. Her experience on the farm with offender work crews from Cedar Creek Corrections Center encouraged her to partner with SPP for the second time this season. “I see the need for giving prisoners skills and education so that they have a chance to positively contribute to society when they get out,” she said. WCCW has an on-site organic garden, and Leimbach’s presentation was directly applicable to the work many offenders are doing right now. The topic also attracted two DOC staff members to attend the lecture series for the first time.
February: Native Plant Restoration
Ben Alexander and Amee Bahr, Sound Native Plants
Ben Alexander and Amee Bahr concluded the series with a discussion on restoration, described as an ecological act on behalf of the future with respect to the past. “We all have challenges in our lives, and we can move past them,” Bahr said. WCCW hopes to start a conservation project that will provide offenders with experience in native plant horticulture. Sharing SPP’s commitment to education, the Alexander and Bahr created a horticulture career development resource for the offenders. Alexander said he, “wanted to convey…that each individual can have an important positive impact even when working on a small local scale.” He hopes the presentation will inspire offenders to make positive contributions to their community and environment when they leave prison.