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SPP’s New Co-Director: Stephen Sinclair

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Stephen Sinclair has replaced Dan Pacholke as the Assistant Secretary for the Prisons Division with the Washington State Department of Corrections. With the new position, he has graciously accepted serving as Co-Director for the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP). Stephen has already shown himself to be a knowledgeable and capable leader for SPP, and we are thrilled to have him on board.


Steve Sinclair and Joslyn Rose Trivett emceed SPP’s Statewide Summit, a two-day meeting in April, 2015. Photo by Karissa Carlson.

Stephen takes over as Co-Director for SPP from his esteemed predecessor, Dan Pacholke. Dan was one the founders of SPP, and his inspiration and creativity have helped make SPP what it is today. We have no doubt that Stephen will continue to rally WDOC’s sustainability culture; he is dedicated to a more humane and sustainable way of running prisons.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Dan Pacholke for his tireless years of service and dedication to SPP. We are grateful Dan will continue to be involved in SPP, now as a Senior Advisor. We warmly welcome Stephen Sinclair to his new role as Co-Director for SPP. Thank you to you both!


Steve Sinclair presents on SPP’s future to more than 100 DOC, Evergreen, and program partners. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.







Team building for native violets at Washington Corrections Center

Written June 11, 2015
Joey Burgess, SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator and Graduate Research Assistant
All photos by Joey Burgess

A horticulture student in the Skill Builders Unit at Washington Corrections Center (WCC) tends to native violets in the prison's new seed beds.

A horticulture student in the Skill Builders Unit at Washington Corrections Center (WCC) tends to native violets in the prison’s new seed beds.

My first two months working with the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) was characterized by collaboration and progression, both of which I consider keystone concepts for sustainability. At Washington Corrections Center, a men’s prison near Shelton, WA, we partner with Centralia College, Washington State Department of Corrections (WDOC) staff, and inmates with cognitive impairments to raise Viola adunca (early blue violets) for seed. The project holds novelties for everyone involved and it has flourished thanks to flexibility and open minds.


A horticulture student carries a rack of early blue violets that are ready to be planted.

Because of precautionary protocols, making infrastructure changes within the walls of a correction facility is not a speedy process. However SPP, WDOC, & Centralia College have truly united and the effect has been excellent. After only three months the violets are flowering, and we have already started harvesting seed. Our success is not limited to the health of the violets; it is also evident in the mental health and progression of the inmates.


Another member of the class-and-crew hand waters violets.

An interest in horticulture is an inmate’s ticket to the project, but dedication keeps him there. Whether it’s planting, watering, cultivating, or harvesting, we focus on one skill at a time. We encourage each person to find a connection to the work. This holistic approach has created an atmosphere of personal and community development. Inmates are brimming with questions about the broad scheme of SPP, and how they can find similar work upon release. Also, it has been surprisingly common for WDOC officers and administrators who are not involved in the project to ask how they can help, even going out of their way to arrange for our 9,000+ violets to be watered over hot weekends.

SPP staff

SPP partners weed and care for the violets as a team.

Although in its infancy, the Viola adunca project has created an unlikely community. The original goals were to raise violets for seed and provide inmates with valuable skills. However the project has become a platform for more than that: proof that under a common goal, even stark boundaries can be blurred.


One of the horticulture students discovered a Pacific chorus frog among the violets. Looks like the SPP logo!


Gardens at Airway Heights Corrections Center

by SPP Network Manager, Joslyn Rose Trivett
All photos by AHCC staff.

A gardener at Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) harvest carrots from one of the gardens on the campus. Photo by DOC staff.

A gardener at Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) harvest carrots from one of the gardens on the campus.

Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC), located near Spokane, Washington, has abundant vegetable gardens. There is a huge main garden, and nearly every living unit has its own courtyard garden. Inmates tend these gardens, and send the produce to the prison’s kitchen; their harvest goes to inmate-dining halls.
Nearly every living unit at AHCC has a courtyard garden.

Nearly every living unit at AHCC has a courtyard garden, growing produce in the eastern Washington sunshine.

Volunteers from the nearby community support and enhance the gardening program. Two community volunteers work with the K-Unit (a living unit) Seniors in the K Unit garden. A Washington State University (WSU) Spokane County Extension Horticulture Specialist, Jeremy Cowan, makes presentations to all inmates active in the program, and consults on every garden at the prison. DOC staff Kraig Witt, a Recreation Specialist, and Lt. Leonard Mayfield also are integral to operations, and do a wonderful job of coordinating all the gardens.

Inmates in the kitchen process vegetables grown on-site, and on their way to the prison menu.

Cooks process vegetables grown on-site, preparing them for inmates’ dining hall.

Many thanks to all involved for their dedication to the gardens. The bring nature inside and healthy, delicious food to the menu.

Update June 29, 2015

The gardens at AHCC are thriving, and on track to out-produce last year. Here are photos from only a few days ago:

Welcome garden is in bloom!

Welcome garden is in bloom!


The prison’s main garden is showing acres of healthy crops.

A living unit garden and surrounding grounds are lush and green.

A living unit garden and surrounding grounds are lush and green.

Beds for Violets at Washington Corrections Center: Building SPP’s newest conservation nursery!

By Conrad Ely
SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator, Shotwell’s Landing

Tuesday March 24, a Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) nursery crew—Carl Elliott, Ricky Johnson & I—set out for Shelton to meet with Don Carlstad, the Facilities Manager at the Washington Correction Center (WCC). We were also joined by Tom Urvina and Scott Shankland of the JBLM “Wounded Warriors”; they were volunteering their time to help our labor-strapped crew undertake this beast-of-a-job. The project looked simple on paper: build twenty-eight garden beds (32’ x 4’ x 1’) in three days. However, Carl—the brains of the operation (and SPP’s Conservation Nursery Manager)—wisely left off the schematic that the beds would be sitting atop (within?) an area that inmates call “the swamp”. But that information wouldn’t become relevant until day two.

The site at Washington Correction Center (WCC)) that would host the Viola beds.

The site at Washington Correction Center (WCC) that would host the Viola beds.

The site plan for the 28 nursery beds; looked so simple on paper!

The site plan for the 28 nursery beds looked so simple on paper!

When we arrived on location, the field we were set to build on was vast and vacant, a canvas for our carpentry. After a careful examination of our blueprints, the tools were distributed and construction began. We worked slowly and deliberately at first. Our measurements were precise and each screw was carefully placed. The first few boxes involved all hands on deck as we fleshed out the most logical and efficient methods. Once we completed the fourth bed, half of the team split off to help fill in the soil as it was ferried over by the tractor load driven by Don Carlstad. By the end of day one, we had eight beds completed.

Scott and Tom build one of the first beds.

Scott and Tom build one of the first beds.

Wednesday we woke to a soggy March morning on the Olympic Peninsula. Luckily we brought reinforcements: Dennis Aubrey, Kenney Burke, and Josiah Falco of the JBLM “Wounded Warriors” program and Allie Denzler of SPP. They helped us battle the elements. Indeed, our field of dreams had turned to a wetland of inconvenience overnight. The shin-deep mud puddles were an inopportune foundation for our garden beds and the rain seemed to double the weight of our lumber as it became saturated, but we persevered nonetheless. With our finely-honed carpentry skills, we pushed forward like athletes on the gridiron, unshaken by any physical distraction. We focused solely on each repetition, working as a team to achieve something none of us could have done alone. And despite the weather, we easily doubled our output from the day before.

We worked in puddles on day two.

The team worked in puddles on day two.

Even in the downpour, the team kept up a high level of carpentry excellence.

Even in the downpour, the team kept up a high level of carpentry excellence.

On day three we were welcomed back to WCC by the glorious sunshine and beauty of springtime in Western Washington. After working in slow motion day one, as we got acquainted with the process, and running the gauntlet day two to build twice as fast in the midst of a monsoon, day three was as satisfying a final day as we could ask for! Not only were we done with time to spare, but befitting the spring weather, we ended with more beds than we had planned: a bonus 29th box!

A tractor fills the final bed with soil.

A tractor dumps soil into the last bed.

The final product: 29 beds are ready for violet plants!

The final product: 29 beds are ready for violet plants!

The process of turning a pile of fresh lumber and a box of screws into an opportunity for environmental education and restoration is not unlike the metamorphosis a caterpillar undergoes as it becomes a butterfly. With thanks to the JBLM “Wounded Warriors”, and help from our partnership with WDOC, we hope this new program will also take flight and promote sustainability at WCC for years to come!

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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.



Sustainable Practices Lab at WA State Penitentiary – Part 1

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

In late November, I had the pleasure of touring the Sustainable Practices Lab, or SPL, in Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. The SPL started up only two years ago—a large empty space save for 15 sewing machines. Today it is a hive of activity and productivity. The lab houses numerous sustainability programs fixing and repurposing all kinds of donated and reclaimed materials. The SPL employs 139 inmates and has donated to more than 88 community organizations in the area. Astounding!

I will share a photo gallery of the first half of my tour in this blog, and the second half in a week or so; there is too much to cover in one posting.


The exterior of the Sustainable Practices Lab (SPL) provides little hint of the bustle and color it contains.


This is the SPL Learning Center. All the prison’s televisions are repaired here (saving about 12 TVs a month from the landfill), and the resident TV shows TED talks. Mr. Thang is the self-taught electronics technician; Rob Branscum, the corrections specialist who oversees the SPL, says Mr. Thang can fix anything!

The front office of the SPL

An inmate started an aquaponics program in spring, 2014. Now they are in the “proof of concept” stage, aiming to raise 700 heads of romaine lettuce each week. Waste water from the fish tank filters through a bed of tomatoes and pumpkins where ammonia turns into usable nitrogen…

These romaine are only a few weeks old; by 6-8 weeks they will be ready for the prison kitchen.

…then the nutrient rich solution passes through the roots of hundreds of lettuce plants. These romaine are only a few weeks old; by 6-8 weeks they will be ready for the prison kitchen.


This is the bike and furniture repair area of the SPL. Technicians repair and customize chairs for hundreds of corrections staff, saving thousands of tax payer dollars every year–technicians throughout the SPL told me with pride that they are motivated to save tax payers as much money as possible.


A collection of wheels will be put to use to refurbish reclaimed bicycles; once the bikes are fixed up they will go to children and adults in the outside community.


An inmate technician who goes by the name Turtle renovates signs for state agencies. He said, “We are much like this wood. We have our issues…the SPL is going to take the time to bring the good out, invest the time. Return us back to society in better shape than we came in.”


Another quote from Turtle: “The Sustainable Practices Lab is an avenue; it gives us the psychological tools to choose to do the positive.”


The SPL vermicomposting program hosts 9 million worms. They compost one-fifth of the prison’s food waste: 2,500 lbs every week is transformed from garbage to the highest quality soil amendment.


An inmate technician in the vermicomposting program hand sifts worm castings.

Thank you to Rob Branscum for starting the SPL, and for hosting the tour. I suspect that the lab’s success can be credited to Mr. Branscum’s belief in inmates’ abilities and creativity (and, of course, that he has the support of many others in WA corrections). Incarcerated men have been given a workplace in which they can thrive!

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon.


First Beekeeping Certification in-prison for SPP-WA

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Master Beekeeper Renzy Davenport of the Olympia Beekeepers Association and the Pierce County Beekeepers spent six Thursday evenings with a class of inmates and staff at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. At the seventh meeting, he certified all students as Apprentice Beekeepers. As far as we know, this is the first in-prison beekeeping certification program in Washington state, and we hope it will be the first of many.

A newly-certified beekeeper receives recognition from Renzy Davenport of the Olympia Beekeepers Association. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

A newly-certified beekeeper receives recognition from Renzy Davenport of the Olympia and Pierce County Beekeepers Associations. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

The classes conveyed all the fundamentals of beekeeping, including how to build up colonies without buying more bees. Renzy provided practical guidance on how to turn beekeeping into a business. At an earlier class, the students sampled several varieties of honey and learned how to create the more tasty varieties—no one was very interested in how to achieve a “buckwheat honey,” as they thought it smelled like wet dog, but the raspberry and wildflower varieties were popular!

For those at Cedar Creek in the spring, they will have the chance to work with the in-prison hives. During the winter months, the bees are quiet and cannot be disturbed, but starting in April there will be plenty to do to care for the bees and their hives.

The first class of certified beekeepers at Cedar Creek Corrections Center pose with their certificates. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

The first class of certified beekeepers at Cedar Creek Corrections Center pose with their certificates. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

Many thanks to Renzy for donating his time to teach the program, and to all the students and administrative support at the prison. Thanks to Fiona Edwards for attending the certification ceremony so we could help celebrate this first beekeeping class.

House plants: A new way to bring nature inside at Larch Corrections Center

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Photos by Danette Gadberry, AA4 at Larch Corrections Center


An inmate at Larch Corrections Center (LCC) shows off spider plant babies from his collection of house plants.

This past spring, I received a letter from an inmate at Stafford Creek Corrections Center asking for support of program to bring house plants into inmates’ living units. While we were unable to make the program work at that prison, I have kept his proposal in mind: it seems an elegant and relatively simple way to “bring nature inside.” I have hoped that we would find a facility willing to pilot a house plant program, and now I discover that a pilot is already underway: Larch has house plants!

Larch Corrections Center (LCC) is a minimum security prison northeast of Vancouver, Washington, and the 40 acre campus is surrounded by National Forest land. I toured the facility for the first time last month and was impressed to see a wide array of sustainability programming, including large-scale composting and recycling (operational for ten years), staff-led waste reduction in the kitchen, and off-campus food production for a local food bank. When we visited a living unit, I was focused on seeing the cat program and missed the house plants. So glad to know about them now!

LCC was the first prison in Washington state to eliminate trash can liners, now standard practice in our prisons and saving the state thousands of dollars and resources. Once again, they are leading the way.


An inmate displays a variety of house plants next to his window; a cat toy is also visible.


An inmate displays a house plant in his room at LCC. The shelves behind him are for the feline resident of the room.

A cat in LCC’s feline program enjoys a high perch.

Graduations and Transitions

By Jaal Mann, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

After over two years working with the Sustainability in Prisons Project, it’s difficult to move on from this highly supportive and tight-knit group who work together to help everyone achieve success.

While I am sad to leave the program, the graduate students who come and go are part of what makes SPP the organization it is. Every year, a new batch of students begins to work with the program, advancing their own research in ways that can improve SPP’s practices, and bringing their fresh perspectives and ideas to the programs.

SPP's second-year conservation nursery graduate students, from left to right: Bri Morningred, Jaal Mann, and Drissia Ras. Jaal and Drissia have finished their Masters studies and will be moving on at the end of the month.

SPP’s second-year conservation nursery graduate students, from left to right: Bri Morningred, Jaal Mann, and Drissia Ras. Jaal and Drissia have finished their Masters studies and will be moving on at the end of the month.

At the same time, major transitions have happened in the Prairie Restoration Crew from Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Several inmates on the crew were released, and others moved on to different jobs. We recently held a graduation ceremony for crew members who had completed a certain number of hours of work, and it was great to be able to show recognition for their efforts.

Inmates on Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s Prairie Restoration Crew, past and present, receive recognition for their efforts over the past year in a graduation ceremony at the corrections center.

Inmates on Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s Prairie Restoration Crew, past and present, received recognition for their efforts over the past year in a graduation ceremony at the corrections center.

Three new graduate students have joined the conservation nursery team. The nursery programs will continue to flourish while providing life-changing experiences for both inmates and students who have the opportunity to work in them.

Clallam Bay Corrections Center Photo Gallery

Photos and text by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

On September 3rd, Evergreen’s SPP staff visited Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC). Corrections staff proved gracious and enthusiastic hosts. Hearing about their sustainability programs and plans for the future was well worth the trek from Olympia. Here is a photo gallery of some of the highlights:


We were dazzled by their greenhouse–every food plant inside was the picture of health. We sampled peas, lettuce, and tomatoes, and appreciated what a difference fresh produce must make to a prison menu.



The Food Services Manager and Gardener at CBCC have only worked together a few months, and already have figured out how to make the most of garden yields in the kitchen; a predictable harvest schedule has reduced grocery expenses, and meant that inmates opt to eat more lettuce.



CBCC sits on 92 acres, and there is ample room for expanding the gardening program inside and outside the fence. This photo shows an area outside the the windows of the Intensive Management Units, a site for future garden beds.



The prison already grows squash (shown here), carrots, radishes, spinach and other greens, herbs, and flowers. They have plans to add blueberries, rhubarb, and perhaps even gourmet mushrooms–crops that they know would be productive in their wet, mild climate.



Here bok choy seedlings respond to the benefits of soil improved by compost–these sprouted much more quickly than those in unimproved soil.



Prison staff have heard very positive feedback from inmates on the new garden program. It is incredible what they have accomplished this year, especially when you consider that they didn’t get started until June! Plans are to double their efforts in 2015, including using every inch of the central courtyard for growing food and ornamental plants.



The prison has a vocational baking program that provides inmates with culinary experience and offers staff and the town bakery fresh-baked deliciousness.



The prison has excellent waste sorting practices in place, and they are ready to expand their recycling and composting programs.



They shared a vision of near-zero waste: a single trash can wheeled out to the curb from a facility housing nearly 900 men. We can’t wait!


Our thanks to our hosts Superintendent Obenland, Associate Superintendent Mike Tupper, Facilities Manager Jack Brandt, Gardener Mike Indendi, Food Services Manager Jerry McAffe, and Roots of Success Liaison Mark Black. We look forward to seeing your sustainability programs grow by leaps and bounds!