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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.

 

 

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.

exterior

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

Learning-center-&-TV-repair

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.

bike-and-chair-repair

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.

bike-wheels

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.

Sign-renovation

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.”

wood-reuse

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

vermicomposting2

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.

vermicomposting-sifting

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

House-plant-pilot-at-Larch-2-cropped

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.

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

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

Cat-program-at-Larch
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:

1inside-greenhouse2

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.

 

1tomatoes-greenhouse

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.

 

1space-for-garden-expansion

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.

 

squash,-main-garden

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.

 

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

 

courtyard

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.

 

1-bakery

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

 

commodities-2

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

 

1primo-sorted-cardboard

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!

Reaching higher at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

The group tours CRCC's main campus.

The group tours CRCC’s main campus.

SPP Peer to Peer gathering

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager
All photos by Kelly Frakes, Capitol Programs

Twenty-two people gathered at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) for a two-day, high-intensity meeting at the end of June. This was a “peer to peer” event, funded in part by the SPP Network Conference Grant from the National Science Foundation. To make plans for CRCC’s sustainability programs, we brought experts (“peers”) in sustainability from Airway Heights Corrections Center and Washington State Penitentiary, WA Department of Ecology, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), and SPP staff from Washington Department of Corrections headquarters and The Evergreen State College. Many of CRCC’s administrative and operations staff joined the meeting, and they proved both gracious hosts and willing subjects.

The state of the art laundry facility at CRCC reclaims heat and water at multiple steps.

The state of the art laundry facility at CRCC reclaims heat and water at multiple steps.

The first order of business for the visitors was learning about CRCC’s campus and existing sustainability programs. CRCC’s main complex is Washington’s newest prison, opened in 2009. It holds the distinction of being the only LEED Gold Certified prison campus in the country. Linda Glasier from WA Ecology related that the extra costs incurred by meeting LEED Gold standards was paid back in about six months (through energy savings), and that CRCC is one of the state’s most resource-efficient complexes. This infrastructure could be the foundation for surpassing sustainable operations programs in a prison.

The central yard at CRCC reflects the need to use no water for irrigation. The prison is located in a desert.

CRCC is located in a desert. The stark central yard reflects the standard of using little-to-no water for irrigation.

One of the challenges faced by CRCC is How to bring nature inside without using more water?

One of the challenges faced by CRCC is How to bring nature inside without using more water?

After an initial welcome and setting the stage, the group toured many areas of the expansive campus: kitchen, warehouse, laundry, textile shop, a living unit, the main yard, and waste collection sites. We also visited the recycling center, housed in the older, minimum security area. All were impressed by the rigorous sorting and the impressive reductions in waste already accomplished. All were also impressed by the extreme heat outside—even though we were not in the heat of summer, many bodies were wilting in the hot, arid environment!

Kelley Thompson who runs the recycling center for CRCC shared the impressive programming already in place.

Shelley Thompson who runs the recycling center for CRCC shared the impressive operations already in place.

Graph showing CRCC's waste reductions over a four year period. Graphic courtesy of Kelley Thompson.

Graph showing CRCC’s waste reductions over a four year period. Graphic courtesy of Shelley Thompson.

Day two of the gathering was devoted to a marathon meeting. The group participated in a “brain dump,” committing to paper their ideas for sustainability programming. We also heard from our visiting experts. Linda Glasier from Ecology encouraged CRCC not to talk about “waste”. The materials called “waste” are actually commodities, and there are better uses and destinations for those resources than the landfill. Along similar lines, Sergeant Resor from the Correctional Facility at JBLM advised the group to “throw nothing away!”

The results of the brain dump were organized into topics, and the group voted to determine three top priorities for action:

  • Elimination of single-use plastics
  • Zero net waste
  • Education and culture change

With determination and focus, the group crafted action plans for the three initiatives. We emphasized immediate next steps and short term goals. We left the meeting with concrete commitments to further building on the already-excellent sustainability programs at CRCC.

"Sustainability guru" for CRCC, Sam Harris, talks with Linda Glasier from WA Dept. of Ecology and JBLM's Solid Waste & Recycling Program Manager Ron Norton.

“Sustainability guru” for CRCC, Sam Harris, talks with Linda Glasier from WA Dept. of Ecology and JBLM’s Solid Waste & Recycling Program Manager Ron Norton.

Cedar Creek Prairie Conservation Crew 2014

Carl Elliott, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager

Photos by Jaal Mann, SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator

The 2014 prairie restoration crew.

The 2014 prairie restoration crew.

The 200,000 plant pots require a delicate and precise process of weeding.

The 200,000 plant pots require a delicate and precise process of weeding.

This is the second spring for a crew from Cedar Creek Corrections Center dedicated year-round to prairie restoration work. The program links community service to education and training in a range of ecological restoration skills.

The crew participates in every facet of restoration ecology on Puget lowland prairies in Thurston County. Their work is guided by regional land managers from The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and The Center for Natural Lands Management, and by SPP’s Conservation Nursery staff. Their activities are highly varied. Spring work centers on the identification and removal of noxious weeds, reducing brush and tree competition in oak savannahs, and identification of prairie sites with a high amount of native biodiversity. In summer and fall their tasks move to seed collection and cleaning as well as providing support for the prescribed burn crews.

Conservation Nursery Coordinator Drissia Ras demonstrates seed sowing techniques.

Conservation Nursery Coordinator Drissia Ras demonstrates seed sowing techniques.

More formal workshops and classroom education occurs while the crew works at the seed nursery managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management and the plant nursery (Shotwell’s Landing) managed by the Sustainability in Prisons Project. At the three seed farms in Thurston County, nearly fifteen acres are cultivated with more than 100 species of seed plants. The offender technicians receive training in plant identification, soil fertility, integrated pest management and a wide range of practical landscape skills. At the plant nursery, they develop adaptive cultivation skills: cultivation techniques that adapt to changing weather and plant needs throughout the growing season. They hone their abilities to monitor plant growth and manage pests to produce the highest quality plants. Adaptive cultivation management is particularly challenging when working with a group of native plants rarely or never grown before.

Crew members prepare early blue violet for plant out at the seed farms.

Crew members prepare early blue violet for plant out at the seed farms.

The plants produced at the nursery go towards the production of seed and habitat enhancement for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. Our goal this year for SPP’s three nursery sites (Shotwell’s, Washington Corrections Center for Women, and Stafford Creek Corrections Center) is 400,000 plants. Outplantings will be a substantial contribution toward creating nectar and larval host plants at sites in Thurston County where the butterfly larvae and adults will be released. Other plants will be used for seed production–with increased availability of seed, even more prairie acreage can be restored. The offender technicians participate in all these efforts; as you can see, they are a primary force in the restoration and habitat enhancement for Puget lowland prairie species for future generations to enjoy.

A crew member scarifies (scratches the seed coat of) American vetch seed prior to sowing; this was done as a comparison study with unscarified seed.

A crew member scarifies (scratches the seed coat of) American vetch seed prior to sowing; this was done as a comparison study with unscarified seed.

 

A crew member covers sown seeds with a gravel cover; a gravel cover reduces moss competition and keeps light seed from floating to the surface.

A crew member covers sown seeds with a gravel cover; a gravel cover reduces moss competition and keeps light seed from floating to the surface.

 

 

SPP’s New Lecture Series Certification

by Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator
Students at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) take in the lecture on Mt. Rainier.

Students at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) take in the lecture on Mt. Rainier. Photo credit: John Dominoski

This past Thursday at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC), inmates were recognized for their science and sustainability education achievements! This is a new certification program through the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series in which inmates are recognized for attending 5, 10, 20 or more lectures.

Tiffany Webb congratulates a lecture series certificate recipient.

Tiffany Webb congratulates a lecture series certificate recipient. Photo credit: John Dominoski

Following the award ceremony, Jeff Antonelis-Lapp, a faculty of The Evergreen State College, presented on the natural history of Mt. Rainier— a topic he is currently researching and writing a book about. The presentation included both the geological history and indigenous peoples’ interactions with the mountain hundreds of years ago. Mr. Antonelis-Lapp also spoke about future hazards associated with Mt. Rainier, particularly lahars (volcanic mudflows). He displayed breathtaking images of the mountain, surrounding areas, archeological sites, and animals that call the range home. Those in attendance received a fact sheet and image of Mt. Rainier to keep.

Tiffany Webb talks with an inmate during the lecture.

Tiffany Webb talks with an inmate before the lecture. Photo credit: John Dominoski

After the lecture, Jeff and I toured SCCC’s sustainability programs. This was my first time at Stafford Creek during this time of year, and I just have to say, their gardens are beautiful! The flowers are blooming in brilliant colors and you can tell the inmates involved are very proud of their work.
The "Lifer" garden at SCCC in full bloom.

The “Lifer” garden at SCCC in full bloom. Photo credit: Tiffany Webb

Prairie Appreciation Day 2014 – Photo Gallery

Photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager.

The object of our affections: south Puget Lowlands native prairie, one of the rarest landscapes in the nation, and a beautiful place to be in the springtime.

The object of our affections: Puget Lowlands native prairie, one of the rarest landscapes in the nation, and an especially beautiful place to be in the springtime.

Balsalmroot (Balsamorhiza sp.) broadcasting its beauty in the morning sun.

Balsalmroot (Balsamorhiza sp.) broadcasting its beauty in the morning sun.

SPP's offering for those who would like to be Taylor's checkerspot butterflies: native flowers atop juice boxes.

SPP’s offering for those who would like to emulate Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies: native flowers atop juice boxes.

A visitor enjoys her creation.

A visitor to SPP’s booth enjoys some nectar from her creation.

Federally-listed Endangered golden Indian paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) growing on the prairie. Our Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott participated in their planting many years ago!

Federally-listed Endangered golden Indian paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) growing on the prairie. Our Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott participated in their planting many years ago!

To find out more about Prairie Appreciation Day, see the article: Butterflies, flowers and prairies, oh my! by one of SPP’s conservation nursery coordinators, Bri Morningred.