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Sustainability & Justice

by Jonathan Bolden, Roots of Success Instructor, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center
Photos by DOC staff

Jonathan Bolden was certified as a Roots of Success instructor in May, 2015. Since then, he has co-taught the environmental curriculum six times. Photo by DOC staff.by Jonathan Bolden, Roots of Success Instructor, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

Jonathan Bolden was certified as a Roots of Success instructor in May, 2015. Since then, he has co-taught the environmental curriculum six times.

Too often we assume that the concept of sustainability is exclusive to the realm of environmental justice. That somehow the idea of conserving natural resources, protecting endangered species and habitats, or reducing our energy consumption will automatically result in a healed earth.

This assumption overlooks the most important factor in actually employing sustainability approaches and practices to meet the growing demands of environmental justice—the human being.

Transforming our earth requires the transformation of people, more specifically, the transformation of people’s attitudes and behavior, as it relates to the environment. The greatest potential and need for this change to occur exists within prisons.

Society has condemned and confined prisoners to prison because of their unsustainable (criminal) behavior. Their behavior has wreaked havoc and devastation within communities similar to the unsustainable human behavior that has led to the environmental crises we currently face. In this sense, the sustainability concept not only applies to radically improving our relationship with the earth and environment but also in our effort to redeem, reform, and rehab[ilitate] prisoners.

Einstein once said that the current dilemmas we face could not be solved at the same intellectual level in which they were created. We are going to have to revolutionize our thinking in how we establish responsible environmental and criminal justice practices. What better way to achieve this goal than to incorporate the solution of one with the other.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) and Roots of Success program (Roots) puts this wisdom of Einstein into practice. These types of programs provide prisoners with the necessary skills and experience to successfully reintegrate into society and find employment in the green economy.

Roots instructors Julian Reyes, Jonathan Bolden, and Eugene Youngblood pose at a graduation event.

Roots instructors Julian Reyes, Jonathan Bolden, and Eugene Youngblood pose at a graduation event.

At Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC), SPP creates programs and opportunities for prisoners to engage in sustainability activities. For instance, the sagebrush project allows prisoners to acquire experience with the native plants of Washington State. The sagebrush plays an essential role in the eastern Washington landscape, as it provides numerous species with food and shelter. If the sagebrush were to become threatened or even extinct, this would have serious implications for the Washington State wildlife.

Sagebrush-and-tattoo-arm

A technician in the sagebrush program at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center checks the health of a plant plug. Photo by Jeff Clark, Bureau of Land Management.

In addition, the Roots course empowers prisoners with its environmental literacy curriculum. While it builds environmental understanding, it also focuses on building the individual student. This means students are challenged to assess their attitude and behavior toward the environment and by extension their attitude and behavior toward society. By introducing the green economy and green jobs to students, Roots highlights the opportunity for students to become gainfully employed and be a veritable solution to our environmental problems.

Ultimately, what we do today determines our tomorrow. SPP and Roots are planting seeds that are sure to bear the fruit of sustainability and justice. So let us take a cue from these programs and dig our hands into the dirt to cultivate a better future.

Saving Resources at Airway Heights Corrections Center

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager

Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) is located in eastern Washington, far from the environmental activism of the Puget Sound. Yet, the prison has become a statewide leader for conserving and recycling resources.  

AHCC is a model for energy conservation. Facility staff regularly check and restore their equipment, fixing it before it breaks. The approach improves performance and life expectancy, and staves off epic fails. By practicing preventative maintenance, they have become a model of efficiency.

garbageThe prison has also set the standard for sorting waste. Without any fancy equipment, they have figured out how to turn the waste stream into valuable commodities. They sort their waste at the source, or “up stream.” Every day, porters (we call them waste stream technicians) sort the waste stream into dedicated cans, and the results are impressive. Nearly everything is reclaimed or recycled; all that’s left is a tiny can of mixed-materials (see photo).

laughing-about-garbage

A porter (waste stream technician), AHCC’s Kraig Witt, and Sustainable Operations Manager Julie Vanneste discuss that it’s hard to know what “garbage” means anymore.

In the many gardens, staff and inmates have transformed hardpan into thriving soil with compost. They use no fertilizers or pesticides, and make their compost in small batches on site. The result is gorgeous, healthy produce.

An inmate gardener harvests high quality radishes outside his living unit. Each living unit has its own garden, and each has its own personality. The three gardeners who were tending this one with enormous enthusiasm.

An gardener harvests radishes outside his living unit.

Each living unit has its own garden, and each garden has its own personality, shaped by the gardeners who tend it. The three gardeners I met showed enormous enthusiasm for the work. They turned 1 strawberry plant into 1,200. They gleaned tomato and cantaloupe seeds from cafeteria food. They figured out how to reclaim seeds from everything they grow. They can boast a truly closed-loop system!

garlic-farmer

This Horticulture Porter said that adding masses of compost transformed this area from an unproductive low spot to the gorgeous plantings of garlic there now.

Sagebrush in Prisons Project

by Gretchen Graber, native plant grower and educator, Institute for Applied Ecology

Sagebrush nursery partners stand together in the hoop house. From left to right, they are Mr. Bowen, Ms. Graber, Ms. Olwell, Ms. Erickson, Mrs. Trainer and Mr. Le. Photo by Washington DOC staff.

The iconic greater sage-grouse, a species recently considered for endangered species listing, is getting a helping hand from a unique set of partners: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE), and Sustainability in Prison’s Project (SPP).

Peggy Olwell, the National Plant Materials Program Lead, BLM-Washington D.C. and Vicky Erickson, geneticist for the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Region visited the “Sagebrush in Prisons Project,” at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, WA, on June 3rd. BLM is sponsoring the program propagating 43,300 Wyoming Big Sage and Three-tip sagebrush, plants that will be carefully nurtured over the summer months and planted out in burned shrub-steppe habitat managed by BLM, this November in Douglas County, WA.

Conservation technicians tend to the growing sagebrush in the nursery at CRCC. Photo by Meagan Murray.

Conservation technicians tend to the growing sagebrush in the nursery at CRCC. Photo by Meagan Murray.

The tour was given by Sam Harris and Dorothy Trainer of Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) and Gretchen Graber, native plant grower and educator with IAE. Olwell and Erickson were able to witness the intangible benefits of the program while meeting the inmates and supporting DOC staff that are growing the sagebrush.  “Community is being created within DOC as a result of the project,” said Mr. Harris. “Coyote Ridge staff have excelled at managing the new program and special thanks goes to Dorothy Trainer and Sam Harris for their intelligent management of the program,” said Graber.

This is an example of healthy sagebrush landscape in central Oregon. Photo by Joseph Weldon, Wildlife Biologist, BLM.

This is an example of healthy sagebrush landscape in central Oregon. Photo by Joseph Weldon, Wildlife Biologist, BLM.

Areas where the sagebrush will be planted are occupied by greater sage-grouse, the species targeted for population increase and recovery. The partnership among BLM, Washington DOC, IAE is part of an unprecedented effort to prevent endangered species listing of the grouse.

Greater sage-grouse are unique from other grouse species in not having a muscular crop used for digesting hard seeds. They forage on sagebrush leaves, herbaceous perennials and insects. Planting genetically appropriate sagebrush species from locally derived genetic sources provides important food and crucial habitat for the birds.

Olwell and Erickson also viewed a living quarters unit, met and talked with several dog training inmates and petted a puppy during their tour at CRCC. “Here’s to a positive future for the greater sage-grouse and to more sagebrush,” commented Olwell.

 

Princess Remington and Pele: Royalty in a prison classroom

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Vulture-and-students

June’s lecture at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) welcomed royalty from West Sound Wildlife Shelter. I had met Pele, Fire Goddess and falcon (a kestrel), once before, and she was as impressive as ever. However, never before had I met a turkey vulture, and I was immediately smitten with Princess Remington.

Princess-Remington

Princess Remington was named for the gun that disabled her left wing during a flight over Shelton. Now she graces classrooms throughout the Puget Sound so that students can discover the magnificence of turkey vultures.

The Princess’ handler is Fawn Harris, our coordinator for the conservation nursery at Washington Corrections Center. She also is staff at West Sound Wildlife Shelter, and she answered nearly an hour of questions on turkey vultures. We learned that turkey vultures are social birds. They travel in groups and are monogamous. Fawn says that if she offers Princess Remington food she does not like, the vulture will still remember and express her dissatisfaction with Fawn a week later.

Fawn told us that Princess Remington was unusually at-ease in this classroom. She bowed to the assembled students!

Fawn-is-a-great-presenter

Fawn Harris clearly loves her work, and she shared a wealth of information about turkey vultures. Never again will I see them the same way.

While vultures are classified as raptors, they don’t have the typical talons or hooked beak. In fact, they are not capable of killing and they are rarely aggressive. Turkey vultures only eat animals that are already dead, finding them with an exceptional sense of smell. The acid in their stomach’s is comparable to battery acid, and diseases cannot pass through. By scavenging, they effectively remove maladies such as rabies, botulism, and cholera from the environment – without vultures, we would see far more of these nasty diseases.

Deb Wilbur of West Sound Wildlife Shelter describes the habits of kestrels, North America's smallest falcon.

Deb Wilbur of West Sound Wildlife Shelter describes the habits of kestrels.

Deb Wilbur told us about Pele. She is an American kestrel, North America’s smallest falcon. Deb fed Pele a baby mouse, and she tore it apart as the presentation went on. The crunching was audible to at least the first couple rows – gross and amazing! A special thanks to Deb who has volunteered her time at two or three other SPP lectures.

Lecture-students

kestrel-and-students

Deb took Pele for a tour of the classroom.

The lecture series students offered excellent questions to the presentation, and were fully attentive to the visiting royalty. At the lecture’s conclusion, one of them remarked to me “Another great lecture!” Holy cats, if they are all that good, I have got to start attending more of SPP lectures!

SPP Internship on Reentry

by Carolina Landa

June 6, 2016

This semester has been very amazing for me working with SPP, an organization that I respect and owe a lot to. One of the most self-inspiring moments was going back into a prison after almost two years of being released. I was able to go with Marcenia Milligan and Misty Liles who are working on a DOC pilot program for reentry. The work they are doing is amazing, first off. They are really dedicated at helping incarcerated people succeed on their reentry back into the community. The 1.5 million grant is only being used for incarcerated people and the reentry services offered to them—none is going to DOC staff salaries. The reentry team made this decision at the beginning, which is humbling to think of and shows heart in the work they are doing.

As I entered Monroe Correctional Complex I became overwhelmed with emotion and started to cry—there was no way around this and I anticipated it would happen. There was just something about hearing those doors and gates lock that immediately took me back to 5 years ago when I first became incarcerated. I don’t think that will ever go away. But the feeling I was able to feel while I was able to interact with the men was priceless, and it affirmed very much for me that I was and am following exactly what I am supposed to be doing with my life.

Carolina-reentry-6-16-2

A slide from the reentry presentation Carolina created as an SPP intern. Photo in top left is by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

People incarcerated are truly some of the most amazing people I have met. Society might not view it that way but I do. There is a bond with them that I immediately have because I know the struggle and I understand their story.

I decided to focus my time around reentry because I feel it is something where SPP could help a lot of the people in the programs in the prisons and after release, as they have helped me.  What I ended up learning about reentry is that it is very complex. Being able to come up with, let’s say, a list of resources is complex because that list is always changing.  I also realized that a semester is not enough time to dedicate to reentry, especially for SPP, as this is all new to them.  The only story, advice and resources I can give are what I have used myself in reentry.  I agree that there are some good organizations out there, but what happens is that a lot of the time the funding is only available for maybe a year, and then is gone.

Successful reentry has to be all focused around networking: I really believe that is what reentry means. Who you know is an important factor and also using what others have used before you.  I will continue to dedicate my time to reentry with SPP as I feel very passionate about helping others who have been where I once was. This list of resources will take a while to conduct and in the end it will most likely be some organizations, but I believe most will be names of persons that I will pick up along the way.

I very much am grateful for this opportunity to work with SPP. Thank you; it has helped me be the person I am today, by continuously believing and encouraging me. I only want to help others succeed as well.  We are well on our way to making reentry focus a bit more stronger for SPP.

Carolina-reentry-6-16

 

All snaps! Airway Heights amazing firewood program

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

I have known about Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC)’s firewood program for years, but had no idea of the scale. I have never seen so much firewood.

On public lands such as parks and state forests, AHCC’s community crews remove trees which fell during storms, and cut trees which are crowding others or posing a hazard. Logs come back to the minimum security yard for splitting, stacking and curing. The prison partners with SNAP (Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners) to provide people of low income with no-cost firewood, to heat their homes. The winter of 2015-16, AHCC’s firewood program donated more than 660 cords of wood to Spokane County residents! 

half-the-firewood

This photo shows about *half* the firewood currently stacked at the Corrections Center.

chipper-meeting

A spontaneous meeting forms around the chipper: DOC staff, visiting compost experts, and a technician discuss the finer points of chipping waste wood. (The chips get turned into compost for the gardens, of course.)

firewood-2

Dang, those are good looking stacks!

firewood-splitter

A technician paused in his work with the splitter so I could take his photograph.

firewood-maul

The crew manually splits and stacks firewood, building their communities’ resources.

 

Prairie seeds close up

Photos by Jim Miles, Prairie Conservation Technician at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC)
Text by Ricky Johnson, Prairie Conservation Technician Program Coordinator

Jim Miles is a conservation nursery technician at SCCC. We bought a new picture microscope for the program, and gave Jim the task of documenting more than 40 different species of prairie plant seeds. Miles had shown an interest in earlier detail-oriented tasks such as data collection and plant tracking. His ability to efficiently and systematically organize, document, and store critical data and information sold me that he was the right person for this particular task.

I delivered the seeds to Miles in a small box full of little manila folders. Being the meticulous worker he is, he immediately began to alphabetized the folders and outline a documentation sheet to correspond with the photos which were saved on an SD card. Tediously, he aligned each seed on a ruler to measure its length and width. Some species, like Micranthes integrifolia, are smaller than cracked pepper, so it takes patience to place them where you want them. Miles took the initiative to photograph seeds with various backgrounds—this proved useful for identifying characteristics of each seed, providing differing levels of contrast and illumination.  The effects were impressive and looked like they belonged in an art gallery.

Gaillardia-aristata-(3)

Gaillardia aristata, blanketflower, is a colorful daisy-like flower of the prairie, but the seeds look like wolf heads.

Erigeron-speciosus-(2)

Erigeron speciosus also has a daisy-like flower…

093180_SPP

…and here it is blooming on the prairie! Photo by Benj Drummond.

Microseris-laciniata-(3)

Microseris laciniata is a dandelion look-alike which is native to south Sound prairies.

Lomatium-utriculatum-(3)

Lomatium seeds are beautiful! They look a bit like dill seeds, because they are in the same family. This one is Lomatium utriculatum.

Lomatium-nudicaule-(3)

This one is Lomatium-nudicaule. Lomatium flowers are a powerful source of nectar for prairie butterflies.

Lomatium-triternatum-(3)

This one is Lomatium triternatum, also known as nine-leaf biscuitroot. (Such a great name!)

Festuca-romerii-(2)

Festuca romerii is one of only a couple grasses we grow in SPP’s prairie conservation nurseries—south Sound prairies are dominated by flowering plants.

Ranunculus-occidentalis

Under the microscope, western buttercup, or Ranunculus-occidentalis, looks like fat little birds without legs.

Solidago-simplex-(2)

Jim Miles spelled his name in Solidago simplex, also known as goldenrod.

Technician-Jim-Miles-Using-Picture-Microscope-(4)

Here is Technician Miles working with the picture microscope.

 

Photos from WCCW Work party

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

In late March, the prairie conservation nursery at Washington Corrections Center for women held a work party. Three SPP staff who had never before worked in an SPP nursery got to join the crew for a day: Sadie Gilliom, SPP turtle program coordinator, Liliana Caughman, lecture series coordinator, and me. It was a gorgeous, sunny spring day—hot, even, under the hoop house plastic.

Our gracious hosts were conservation nursery technicians Stephanie Boyle and Lerissa Iata, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott, and DOC’s Scott Skaggs. It was such fun to join their work, and help them catch up with the needs of sprouting seeds.

work-party,-spp-staff

SPP’s Liliana Caughman fills her seeding tray with Lomatium seeds while Sadie Gilliom and Carl Elliott fill racks with soil.

 

seeds

The Lomatium helped inspire the work party—it started sprouting in the fridge earlier than normal.

 

Conservation technicians Stephanie Boyle makes tags to label seed lots sown.

Conservation technicians Stephanie Boyle makes tags to label the seed lots sown.

 

Conservation technician Lerissa Iata checks on prairie species growing in the hoop house at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Conservation technician Lerissa Iata checks for weeds growing among prairie species.

 

killdeer-parent-words

Since the violet beds were built, a pair of killdeer has used them as a nesting site, and the birds are adored by many at the prison. As is typical for killdeer, they laid their eggs out in the open, and anytime a visitor comes near they put on a loud and vigorous display.

 

killdeer-eggs

Beyond the killdeer eggs, on the first truly warm day of spring, you can see many sun lovers out in the yard.

 

group-laughing

I asked the work party to pose for a group photo, and they were such cool subjects that we all cracked up.

 

Joslyn

I admire the balsamroot seedlings in the nurery. I love plants! Photo by Liliana Caughman.

 

Anywhere and everywhere we can, we bring nature inside prisons. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Anywhere and everywhere we can, we bring nature inside prisons.

Principle & Practice: Learning and doing science at Shotwell’s

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

In February, I visited Shotwell’s Landing and got to see the prairie restoration crew in action. The crew is contributing to program coordinator Conrad Ely‘s thesis research for the Master of Environmental Studies program. The research builds on the work of an earlier Master’s thesis investigating how treating seeds with plant-derived smoke water, which contains many of the same chemicals present in prairie fires, can affect their germination rates and vigor—many prairie species are very difficult to propagate, and they hope to trigger germination with treatments simulating prairie fire.

After the first nursery tasks of the day, program coordinator Conrad Ely shared a presentation on the scientific method. He tied principles of research design to their shared experiment, and then to Mima Mounds enigma. He used theories on the Mima Mounds’ formation to illustrate opportunities as well as limitations of the scientific process. From their experience with prairie restoration, the crew knows the Mounds well, and they jumped in with their own thoughts and theories.

My gratitude for everything the crew does for the region’s prairies. They are employed in prairie restoration full time, and their efforts and enthusiasm make a big difference for South Sound prairies, one of the most rare and threatened landscapes in the nation.

scientific-method

Program coordinator Conrad Ely leads discussion of the scientific method.

 

lunchbox-makes-his-point

Benjamin Hall brought great questions and ideas to the discussion of the Mima Mounds mystery.

 

keeping-track

Nursery technicians Robert Bowers (left) and Andrew McManus (right) track seed lots for stratification prior to spring sowing.

 

conrad-and-crew

Conrad discusses germination rates with technicians Bobby Un (left) and Benjamin Hall (right).

 

in-the-garden

The group visited the demonstration garden at the north end of Shotwell’s Landing, mostly dormant in the winter but still a pleasing site for contemplation.

 

Washington State Penitentiary Collaboration for the Birds!

By Kelli Bush, SPP Program Manager

It’s always nice to do positive projects. It helps us do our time with rewarding accomplishment knowing it helps the community and wildlife. ~Michael Feeney

We appreciate the opportunity to work with the public for environmental causes. ~Roy Townsend

Roy Townsend, Michael Feeney, Robert Beck, Robert Haugen, Luke Andrade, and Jose Ayala pose with the barn owl next boxes they build in the Sustainable Practices Lab. Photo by DOC staff.

Roy Townsend, Michael Feeney, Robert Beck, Robert Haugen, Luke Andrade, and Jose Ayala pose with the barn owl next boxes they build in the Sustainable Practices Lab. Photo by DOC staff.

Inmates working in the Sustainable Practices Lab at Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) are building owl boxes for the Blue Mountain Audubon. The boxes are installed in vineyards to help with rodent control—a strategy that will benefit viticulturists and owls alike. The boxes are designed to be suitable homes for barn owls. The Blue Mountain Audubon’s Owl Nest Box Project was inspired by the Hungry Owl Project, a non-profit dedicated to reducing the use of toxic rodenticides while promoting owl and wildlife conservation.

Rodenticides can be slow to poison rodents. Poisoned rodents are sluggish and debilitated—easy prey for owls, hawks, eagles, falcons and other wildlife. Consuming contaminated rodents can make predator animals ill and can even result in death.

Barn owls have voracious appetites. Installing barn owl boxes can be a cost effective way to manage a rodent problem without relying on rodenticides, and can support healthy wildlife. According the Hungry Owl website, a single Barn Owl family can consume 3,000 rodents during their 4 month breeding cycle. Barn owls can have multiple clutches a year, raising the total for possible consumed rodents to 6,000 – 9,000 a year per owl box!

Blue Mountain Audubon installs a barn owl nest box in a Walla Walla area vineyard.

Blue Mountain Audubon installs a barn owl nest box in a Walla Walla area vineyard.

According to WSP Corrections Specialist Chris McGill, the first round of owl boxes built by inmates was “a big hit” and they have received a request for 20 more boxes. This is an excellent example of a collaborative program to benefit people and wildlife. Great work WSP Sustainable Practices Lab!