Sustainable Practices Lab at WA State Penitentiary – Part 2

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

This blog is the second photo gallery from my visit to the Sustainable Practices Lab (SPL) at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla (see part one here).

wood-shop

Roy Townsend runs the wood shop, and when he describes his work he lights up like he’s singing. The shop fixes desks, chairs, and guitars. With donated/reclaimed wood, they also build beautiful chess boards, train sets, and other specialty pieces that become valuable auction items for non-profit fundraising.

Roots-classroom

The Roots of Success classroom is housed within the lab and the program serves as a ten week job interview for the SPL. Four days a week for ten weeks, students spend the morning in the classroom and the afternoon in various sustainability positions. About 70% of the 127 graduates so far have been offered jobs, and no one can recall anyone turning down the opportunity. It’s a great model for turning theory into practice.

SPL-Clerk,-Parkins

Kieth Parkins is an exemplary spokesperson for the lab, and knows its programs inside-out. Robert Branscum, the corrections specialist who oversees the SPL, stayed with us throughout the tour, but Kieth served as the primary tour guide. Throughout the tour, I was struck by the inmate technicians’ investment in the programs, and their eloquence in presenting them.

sign-shop,-Williamson-2

We met Ray Williamson in the SPL’s sign shop, and he spoke passionately about his investment in peer-led programs. He said that when inmates run programs, they feel ownership, and that they listen to each other in a way they would never listen to staff. He expects to be in prison for life, and considers it his life work to help rehabilitate other inmates so that once they are released they never come back.

sewing-area-2

The sewing area is colorful and hopping with activity. They produce quilts, upholstery, and teddy bears for non-profit auctions. They see their teddy bears as their ambassadors.

teddy-bear-eyes

Nearly all the materials for the sewing area are donated–the only costs are the sewing needles and the teddy bear eyes, shown here.

sewing-area

Here is another view of the SPL sewing area. Some favorite pieces are displayed on the wall.

sewing

Gus started the teddy bear program. He said to me, “Never in my life—and I’m 60 years old—never in my life wanted to get up and go to work until I got this job.”

 

That seems to me the perfect last word on the Sustainable Practices Lab.

 

 

2 Comments:

  1. John Knight

    Hey guys.. This is John Knight.#865698.i was showing a friend some picture of what we were doi g there in SPL. and i decided to comment and say hi.
    Im staying out of trouble for the most part. Im 8 years clean. I got out and got a job in an upholstery shop thats to what i Learned in SPL. busted my bum. Worked full time plus school full time. I am now a certified Welder. Boilermakers Union. Life hasnt been perfect. But i have a career and make good money. Im off of DOC. And i dont ever see a reason to come back. I would like to say that im settimg up a support system here soon so that people can get out and have the means and knowlege to do what they need to to stay out. Its possible to do it. Im Living proof. It aint easy and you gotta want it tho. John Lucky Knight

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