Author Archives: Emily Passarelli

The Cedar Creek Turtles Return!

Written by Marissa Scoville, SPP Ecological Coordinator

A Western Pond Turtle being handled by an incarcerated technician. Photo by SPP Staff.

After a long hiatus Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) and the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) were happy to welcome back the Western Pond Turtle (WPT). The WPT program has been active since 2013, but due to Covid-19 SPP had to take a two-year break from the program. With the return of the program SPP has begun working with a team of incarcerated technicians to provide care to these turtles by helping them recover from illness so they can return to their native ponds and help the population grow.

WDFW biologist handling a Western Pond Turtle. Photo by SPP Staff.

The WPT are a Washington state listed endangered species. Biologists from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) trap the turtles and examine them for signs of shell disease. Shell disease is caused by a keratin eating fungus that infects the WPTs and creates lesions on their shells, left untreated it can be fatal. Turtles that are show symptoms of shell disease are then brought to PAWS Wildlife and Rehabilitation Center (PAWS) for treatment. This year all the turtles that received treatment were from Peirce County. After treatment the turtles have a long road to recovery, and this is where the technicians at Cedar Creek come in to play.

Veterinarian from PAWS teaching technician, Jason Matson, how to examine shell disease lesions on a Western Pond Turtle. Photo by SPP Staff.

At Cedar Creek, the turtles are kept in a small building lovingly dubbed by both staff and technicians alike, “The Turtle Shack”, which was renovated this year to house the turtles. Due to the two-year break in the WPT program and the new Turtle Shack, there was a lot of work to set up before the turtles could arrive! But supplies were quickly gathered, and the tanks and lights were set up as well, and pretty soon The Turtle Shack was ready to house the WPTs. On March 9th, 2022, the eight WPTs were transferred down from the PAWS facility to Cedar Creek by WDFW biologist Emily Butler.

WDFW biologist showing technician, Jason Matson, how to check the WDFW number on a Western Pond Turtle. Photo by SPP Staff.

Turtle technician, Heath McQueen, examining a Western Pond Turtle when the turtles were first brought to Cedar Creek. Photo by SPP Staff.

Once the turtles arrive at Cedar Creek, the technicians work hard to care for this endangered species. The technicians prepared and fed the turtles a varied diet of smelt, mealworms, night crawlers, turtle pellets, mixed greens, and reptile gel. They also provided daily water changes and weekly tank cleanings to prevent possible infections in the turtles’ post-treatment wounds. With daily behavior observations the technicians quickly learned the personality each turtle had, some were shy and preferred to hide all day while others were bold and sassy, preferring to bask all day and would occasionally attempt to pick a fight with their tank mate. It is important to note aggressive turtles were separated in their tanks with Plexi glass to prevent potential injury (this would not stop them from endlessly hissing at each other though). Physical observations were also regularly made to ensure treated lesions were healing or if new lesions developed. These observations helped the technicians notice if a turtle acting differently and may need medical attention, thankfully no extra medical attention was required for this round of turtles. In what felt like minutes, the turtles were rehabilitated and ready for release.

Weekly photos of the carapace (top shell, image on left) and plastron (bottom shell, image on right) were taken weekly to track the healing process and reference in case of new suspected lesions. Photo by SPP Staff.

On May 5th, 2022, the turtles were transported to the Pierce County release site, where their native ponds are located. Here a small staff made up of SPP and WDFW members checked all the turtles prior to release. Unfortunately, the technicians were unable to join this year’s release. The pre-release checks consisted of weight and size measurements, Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT) scans and verifying each turtle’s WDFW number. After this the turtles were brought down to the ponds. At the Pierce County site each of the turtles were released back into the same pond which they were trapped in many months ago. Each of the staff took turns releasing the eight WPTs into their native ponds. The turtles swam away and rejoined their population just in time for the summer and the WPT mating season. SPP and the Cedar Creek crew are very happy to see the successful release of the WPTs but will be missing the turtles until the next batch of are trapped for treatment.

Western Pond Turtle released into Pond at Peirce County Peirce County site. Photo by Danielle Jimenez, Communications Consultant from Washington Department of Corrections.

Foundations in Gardening at LCC

Written by Jennifer Bass, Environmental Education Coordinator

This year, Larch Corrections Center introduced the Foundations in Gardening curriculum to High School+ (HS+) students in partnership with the Sustainability in Prisons Project and Clark College. This is the first time SPP’s education materials are being used for HS+ students! HS+ is a flexible alternative to the GED for students where students can use life experience and prior learning to earn their high school diploma. LCC’s class is led by Clark College Instructor Lauren Zavrel and 2 peer-facilitators. 

LCC students taking notes for their gardening class. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

The gardening class includes both a hands-on component in the garden as well as regular classroom seminars and assignments. In the late fall, the gardeners at LCC developed a planting plan and sowed leek, Brussel sprouts, red clover, and onion seeds.  

LCC’s garden area has been sowed with tons of vegetables. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Combined, the LCC gardeners will spend more than one hundred hours studying course material, working in the garden, completing assignments, and participating in seminars! The class and work wouldn’t be possible without the peer-facilitators, facility liaison, and partners at Clark College.  

Gardeners work at LCC to prepare the beds for planting. Photo by Lauren Zavrel.

To help the SPP continue providing education in Washington prisons, click here.

 

 

 

 

Welcoming Emily Passarelli to the SPP Team

Text by Emily Passarelli, SPP Program and Outreach Manager

Emily Passarelli, SPP Program and Outreach Manager. Photo by Aarudra Moudgalya.

Emily Passarelli is a native of Rantoul, a small rural village in East Central Illinois. Growing up in Rantoul, Emily was very active in her local community. She joined just about every community group or school club she could, but her main passion was acting in theatre. Emily participated in every one of her high school’s plays and musicals, and even arranged for an additional play to get an extra opportunity on stage her senior year. 

After high school, Emily went on to pursue her interest in theatre at Knox College in Galesburg, IL, but life had other plans for her. To earn a required science credit, Emily took Environmental Studies 101 and quickly realized she was exactly where she needed to be. This led her to become interested in how environmental issues disproportionately and consistently affect underrepresented populations. Emily then decided to double major in both Theatre and Environmental Studies.

After graduating from Knox in 2015, Emily began to pursue her Master of Environmental Studies (MES) degree at The Evergreen State College. Before arriving in Olympia, Washington, Emily accepted a position as the Green Track Coordinator at The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP). In this position, she coordinated the Roots of Success program and was the first coordinator to work on the Beekeeping program. One of her favorite moments was helping plan the first Beekeeping Summit at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in 2017. She also appreciated the opportunity to visit 11 of 12 Washington State prisons, as well as McNeil Island, and experience the distinctly different cultures of each facility. SPP helped Emily find her passion for developing and maintain partnerships with some of the most interesting and passionate people she’s ever met!

Emily Passarelli gazes at Oregon Spotted frogs before they are released back to the pond. Photo by SPP staff.

While in MES, Emily studied subjects such as Traditional Ecological Restoration and Environmental Education, and researched how a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest would affect different populations. Her time at SPP also inspired her to focus her graduate thesis on the lasting effects of environmental education on formerly incarcerated individuals. The results of this research showed even more evidence to support the transformative effect of environmental education in prisons.

Emily Passarelli and fellow MES Cohort members, Melanie Graeff and Liliana Caughman (also former SPP coordinator), at their graduation ceremony in 2017. Photo by Allison Diamond.

Once Emily completed her time at MES and SPP, she felt compelled to continue her work in corrections education however she could. Emily then took on the role of Education Program Coordinator at The Washington Corrections Center (WCC) through Centralia College. After two years working inside WCC in this role, Emily was promoted to Program Manager. She has loved the opportunity to work closely with DOC staff, custody, and leadership, support and expand all types of education for students, plan graduation events to celebrate student success, and work with the wonderful Education Department team at WCC. 

Emily Passarelli GED Testing at the Washington Corrections Center in 2020. Photo by Aundrea Lund.

After 3 years at WCC, Emily has now returned to the SPP team as the new Program and Outreach Manager. She’s still pinching herself to make sure she’s not dreaming! Emily is so grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to see what the future holds. In her free time, Emily loves spending time with her husband and sweet, shivery chihuahua.

Emily and her chihuahua Penny. Photo by Aarudra Moudgalya.

Bees at MCCCW – Photo Gallery

Photos and text by Emily Passarelli, SPP Green Track Coordinator

A special congratulations to Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women! This past Wednesday, they received two live hives donated with help from West Sound Beekeepers Association instructor, George Purkett. George is currently teaching 5 incarcerated individuals how to become beekeepers. I was present to see the first time the new beekeepers inspected the hives. They PET HONEYBEES (yeah, actually pet bees with a bare hand!), checked for mites (thankfully, no mites), and labeled the queens with a special marker. The photo gallery tells more of the story!

West Plains Beekeeper George Purkett uses the smokers to calm the bees before opening the hive.

 

Beekeeper George Purkett quizzes the incarcerated beekeepers on the health of the bees (the bees are doing great!).

 

Honeybee drones don’t have stingers, so they’re safe to hold without gloves! Photo by Emily Passarelli.

 

Honeybees are so docile you can pet them! They were warm and fuzzy.

 

After finding the queen, Mr. Purkett marked the queen with a special marker. She had to stay in the queen bee holder until the ink marking dried.

 

After the queen was released, the other bees surrounded her. Can you see her?

 

Varroa mites are one of the major honeybee killers. To test for them, George took about 200 bees and shook them with sugar. (Later, the bees enjoy cleaning and eating the sugar off their bodies!) The sugar pops the mites off. Thankfully, this hive is clean from mites!

 

Congrats to the newly certified staff and incarcerated beekeepers!

 

Clallam Bay Corrections Center – First Beekeeping Graduates!

Text and photos by Emily Passarelli, SPP Green Track Program Coordinator

With the help of Mark Urnes from North Olympic Peninsula Beekeepers Association, Clallam Bay Corrections Center has graduated 12 new beekeepers!

Mark Urnes taught a two-day intensive class to 12 incarcerated individuals. I had the pleasure of sitting in on Mark’s class in March and impressive is an understatement! Students took a series of 10 tests over two days to become certified as Apprentice Level Beekeepers. However, to prepare for the two-day intensive class, the students studied hard for months with the support of Corrections Officer Faye Nicholas. They brought excellent questions to the class and every student passed the required tests. CBCC is expecting to have bees for them to take care of by late April!

A student asking Mark Urnes a beekeeping question.

Special thanks to Mark Urnes for his generosity and for sharing his time and knowledge. Also to Faye Nicholas for making beekeeping at Clallam Bay possible. Thank you both for everything you do!

Lastly, CONGRATULATIONS to the first CBCC Beekeeping Class!

The Honey Bees are a Buzzin’ at Larch Corrections Center

Written by SPP Liaison and Classification Counselor Shawn Piliponis.

On September 8, 2016, Larch Corrections Center (LCC) reached another historical milestone as it kick-started a new apiary (beehive) program by hosting a class to educate participants about bees and beekeeping.

Larch Staff and students enjoying the Bee Thinking lecture. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Larch Staff and students enjoying the Bee Thinking lecture. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Inmates and staff who participated were genuinely interested in learning about bees and beekeeping, but were understandably concerned about the potential of being stung by bees. Rebekah Golden and Gabriel Quitslund from Bee Thinking in Portland, Oregon, taught how bee colonies work, which alleviated a lot of the initial fear, and those who participated walked away feeling more educated and comfortable about LCC’s new beekeeping program.

Bee Thinking's Rebekah Golden teaches a class of staff and incarcerated students about beekeeping. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Bee Thinking’s Rebekah Golden teaches a class of staff and incarcerated students about beekeeping. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

“I want to help the offender population think outside the box by showing a variety of employment opportunities available to the offenders upon release,” said Classification Counselor Shawn Piliponis, LCC’s sustainability liaison. “My primary goal for this program is to coordinate with other organizations like SPP and Bee Thinking to provide official Beekeeper Apprentice and Master Beekeeper certifications to the offender population before they release.”

It was a voluntary class, and an instant hit among all who attended. A total of 11 inmates and 11 staff, volunteers, and contractors participated, and already there is demand for more classes from both staff and inmates.

Staff get a closer look at honey comb. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Staff get a closer look at honey comb. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Shawn Piliponis coordinated with the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP)-Evergreen staff Kelli Bush, Emily Passarelli, and Sadie Gilliom to arrange and sponsor the beekeeping class for LCC inmates and staff. The class was taught by Rebekah Golden and Gabriel Quitslund from Bee Thinking in Portland, Oregon. Rebekah has worked with bees for eight years in university research labs, her own apiary, Bee Thinking’s apiaries, and other community organizations. Gabriel is a sales manager for Bee Thinking who has a vast knowledge of bees and issues related to beehives such as disease, colony collapse, and pests.

Bee Thinking's Rebekah Golden and Gabe Quitslund help CC2 Shawn Piliponis set up Larch's new beehive. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Bee Thinking’s Rebekah Golden and Gabe Quitslund help CC2 Shawn Piliponis set up Larch’s new beehive. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

The new beekeeping program at LCC will start with a beehive donated from the beekeeping program at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC).

 

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.

New Program Offered by SPP: Bee Certification

By Emily Passarelli, SPP Green Track Program Coordinator

It is with great excitement that I announce: SPP is adding beekeeping certification to our lovely list of programs. Our goal is to bring this program to every prison hosting beekeeping within the next few years. As Green Track Program Coordinator, I have the amazing opportunity to coordinate two programs: beekeeping certification and Roots of Success.

Staff and offender beekeepers take a break to pose for the camera. Photo by SPP.

Staff and offender beekeepers take a break to pose for the camera. Photo by SPP.

This beekeeping certification will be a 10-20 hour course taught by a local beekeeping volunteers. Inmates and DOC staff will earn the title of “Apprentice.” If they find that beekeeping is their calling, they have the opportunity to advance to “Journeyman.” If they’re REALLY dedicated they can even advance up to “Master” (though there are only 6 Masters in the entire state of Washington!). This class will be a spectacular opportunity for hands-on experience in a green jobs field. It will also be a great way for our prisons to do more for honeybee conservation. We hope that this certification program will give a chance for everyone interested to learn about bees and their amazing life stories. To learn more about these amazing creatures check out Joslyn Trivett’s recent blog or our new beekeeping page!

We have already had two graduating classes at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. That’s almost 45 graduates! Prisons next in line to bring in beekeeping certification are SCCC, WCCW, MCC, WSP, CRCC, and AHCC. We cannot wait to see what the future has in store for our partnerships with bees!

A graduating class of newly certified beekeepers. Photo by SPP Staff.

A graduating class of newly certified beekeepers. Photo by SPP Staff.

SPP feels very positively about work with honeybees in prisons. Photo by SPP staff.

SPP feels very positively about work with honeybees in prisons. Photo by SPP staff.