Category Archives: Budget

Inspiring Students

By SPP Director for Evergreen, Dr. Carri LeRoy

During an MES fieldtrip to the Elwha River, Carri (purple raincoat), talked with MES students and adjunct faculty Sarah Hamman (blue raincoat, also an SPP partner!). Photo by Shauna Bittle.

While reading a draft of the newsletter this quarter, I was overwhelmed by memories of SPP students past, inspired by SPP students present, and could barely contain my excitement about meeting the SPP students of the future! One of the great benefits of being the Co-Director on the Evergreen side of the SPP partnership (SPP is a partnership between The Evergreen State College and the Washington Department of Corrections) is interacting with our phenomenal undergraduate and graduate students.

During the first national meeting of SPP programs in 2012, Evan Hayduk and Carri LeRoy talk during a tour of Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

I was able to cultivate particularly strong relationships with SPP graduate students while I spent three years as a faculty member in Evergreen’s Graduate Program on the Environment (MES) and had the distinct pleasure of mentoring sixteen thesis students. Of these students, half of them also worked as SPP Graduate Research Assistants, and four of them did their thesis projects on SPP. It was through many months of collaborative learning about their thesis research that I really got to know these students and their strengths and passions. They are inspiring individuals! Many of them enrolled in the MES program and moved across the country with the hope of being able to work for SPP. The MES program’s interdisciplinary curriculum and opportunities to do thesis projects that blend natural and social sciences make it an ideal partner for SPP. We like to think of SPP as a fantastic example of the three pillars of sustainability in action (environmental stewardship, economic cost saving, and social justice), so it is easy to choose aspects of the program to study from many angles. We are grateful for the dedication, enthusiasm, and time SPP Graduate Research Assistants put into their work for SPP. Their work is clearly appreciated by SPP staff, WA Corrections  employees, incarcerated students, their peers, and outside agencies (as evidenced by the articles written in this issue of our newsletter). Our students have gone on to pursue PhDs and do excellent work after graduation for federal, state, and non-profit agencies. Evergreen students are truly a force to be reckoned with, and our SPP graduates are an elite group! I thank all of you (past, present, and future) for your contributions to SPP!

Planning action for Clallam Bay

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

After months of pre-meetings and scheduling, Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC) hosted two days of Action Planning: deciding next steps to expand SPP programs at the prison. The event brought together many great minds and stakeholders: the Director of Prisons Steve Sinclair, prison Superintendent Ronald Hayes, the well-stocked Sustainability Committee, visiting experts on beekeeping, rainwater catchment, and the Makah tribe, SPP managers, and Capitol Programs staff from Headquarters. We were there to plan for two or three new sustainability initiatives.

There was no shortage of excellent ideas in the room. We explored the merits of many, many programs and strategies. Narrowing our focus was a real challenge—so many contenders, so many promising avenues toward sustainability, how to pick which are the very best?

At the end of Day 1, we held a vote, and it was a relief to see a few clear winners emerge.

Officer-Buttram-makes-a-point

After a day of good-natured debate over CBCC’s sustainability priorities, the group gets ready to vote.

CBCC-vote

When the votes were cast, the clear winners were water conservation/culture change and beekeeping.

Culture change through water conservation

The top choice was a hybrid focus: water conservation and culture change. At a prison where it rains 95 inches a year (that’s really wet), and pulls water from a salmon-bearing stream, the group was determined to use less tap water and catch more rainwater. Promoting these changes seemed an ideal way to promote sustainable choices in general.

To achieve this goal, we decided on several action items, including:

  • create posters to display throughout the facility (see example below)
  • publish and distribute sustainability newsletters, with versions for inmates and staff
  • in each housing unit, hold Town Hall sustainability meetings
CBCC-SPP-resources-offender-version

This poster promotes saving resources at the prison, with an inmate audience in mind; the version for staff is slightly different.

Beekeeping

The other winner was beekeeping—all agreed that a honeybee program could bring numerous rewards to the prison. Corrections staff and inmates could gain recognized education and certification. In-prison beekeepers could enjoy calming, meditative work with the hives. The hives could contribute healthy bees to pollinate the prison’s organic gardens and bolster local honeybee population. All involved could help build the international effort to restore the pollinators on which we depend.

We settled on these actions to bring beekeeping to CBCC:

  • Create beekeeping posters
  • Write and submit a proposal to the prison Captain, identifying planned costs, siting, and safety protocol
  • Consult with the North Olympic Peninsula Beekeepers on how best to offer certification program at the prison

All in all, we were impressed by how much we were able to plan in two days. The actions taken since also attest to Action Planning’s worth: we have been busy as bees turning those plans into reality.

 

Making the most of a waste water lagoon

By Anna Crickmer, PE, Project Manager, Capital Programs, Department of Corrections

Photos by Clallam Bay Corrections Center staff

The head operator of the waste water treatment facility at Clallam Bay Corrections Center.

The head operator of the waste water treatment facility at Clallam Bay Corrections Center smiles in front of the waste water “polishing” pond.

Sewage treatment at Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC) is the epitome of sustainable operations. They have an aerated lagoon (very low tech) with a polishing pond of duckweed (also very low tech), but staff are so dedicated to the operation that they get contamination reduction results exceeding some very high tech operations.

The main way to measure sewage treatment performance is the reduction of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Total Suspended Solids (TSS). Aerated lagoons generally reduce BOD by 75-80% and TSS by 70-80%. High tech, activated Sludge plants, the gold standard of sewage treatment, usually get 85-97% reduction in BOD and 87-93% in TSS.

The plant at CBCC gets 96% reduction of BOD, and 99% reduction of TSS—even better than the gold standard! 

One reason that they get these remarkable results is that they aerate the heck out of the lagoon. The original aerators are still in operation, thanks to meticulous maintenance, and more aerators have been added. In the summer months, water stays in the lagoon for 25 1/2 days before moving to a second pond, the “polishing” pond.

The prison's waste water starts its treatment in a lagoon full of aerators.

The prison’s waste water starts its treatment in a lagoon full of aerators.

The polishing pond is covered in duckweed. The duckweed takes up nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus (pollutants if discharged), and shades the water so that no algae can grow. The duckweed is grown in “corrals” so that it doesn’t blow to one side of the pond. The sides of the corrals tip over so that the operators can travel across them in a small pontoon boat when they maintain the pond. Water stays in the polishing pond 24 1/2 days, and then is ready for discharge into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The second treatment pond, the "polishing" pond, is covered in duckweed; the grid of corrals is to keep the duckweed coverage complete (without those barriers, the floating plants would migrate with the wind).

The second treatment pond, the “polishing” pond, is covered in duckweed; the grid of corrals is to keep the duckweed coverage complete (without those barriers, the floating plants would migrate with the wind).

The staff operators of the plant are exceptionally competent, and likable characters besides. Both used to be loggers, and say that their environmental conscience has been raised considerably because of their work at DOC. One of them told me, “Why, I even want to save whales now!”

 

Going all-in for LEDs

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Electrician

An inmate-electrician at Washington Corrections Center for Women updates a light fixture in the main courtyard. Photo by Jody Becker-Green.

According to Brian Tinney, Assistant Secretary for the Administrative Services Division, Washington State DOC has purchased 1,353 new LED light fixtures in the last 60 days. The LED light fixtures are far more energy efficient than the those they replace, and DOC expects to save 1.1 gigawatts of electricity in the first 50,000 hours following installation. Saving 1.1  gigawatts is the same as saving 1.1 billion watts, almost enough to power the DeLorean in Back to the Future.

SPP’s new director for DOC, Steve Sinclair, played a pivotal role in the new commitment to LED technology. He inspired facility managers to embrace the idea, and created the purchasing plan to make replacement and retrofits easily achievable.

The next LED challenge will be in converting prison perimeter lighting—switching to LED technology so that outdoor evenings are safe and well-lit, but less expensive than they have been.

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.

Joslyn-laughing-at-Steve

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-presenting

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Using Worms to Reduce Food Waste at Monroe Correctional Complex!

By Donna Simpson, Administrative Assistant 3 at Monroe Correctional Complex

The Monroe Correctional Complex is using worms to reduce food waste disposal costs while also providing a meaningful science and sustainability education and work program for offenders.

Currently at 5 million worms, the vermiculture program can process 10,000 pounds of food scraps per month, resulting in a cost reduction of more than 25%.  This translates into big savings for the prison, which previously spent $60,000 a year on food waste disposal before several sustainability initiatives began.

In January of 2010, staff and offenders developed the vermiculture program by collecting just 200 red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida) for three small breeding bins built by offenders. Very little funding has been invested in the program. As the worm population grew, new and improved models of worm bins were built by converting discarded barrels, old laundry carts, food carts, and recycled mattress materials. This indoor commercial-sized “Wormery” currently has more than 170 worm bins designed and built by offenders.  Seventeen of the bins are “flow-through” style.  The flow-through bins are primarily built from re-purposed materials by offenders, whereas they would typically retail at more than $5,000 each.

This program provides other benefits, including the by-products produced by the worms. Worm castings (worm manure) are a valuable, high-quality organic fertilizer sought after in the organic gardening market. The “Wormery” also produces 400 gallons of worm tea fertilizer per week. The worm castings and worm tea are used in the several acres of gardens at Monroe Correctional Complex.

Studies have shown that offenders who participate in horticulture programs while incarcerated have a lower rate of recidivism. Offenders develop important vocational and life skills. The worm technicians at MCC wrote an operations manual that is now available to assist other institutions in starting new vermiculture programs. They have also developed an extensive breeding program capable of exporting worms to other Washington institutions, agencies or schools. Thus far, Washington State Penitentiary and Stafford Creek Corrections Center have received worms as a result of this program.

 

Worm breeding bins

 

Flow through bins designed and built by inmates

 

Worm Breeding Bins

 

Good News

By Graduate Research Associate Alicia LeDuc

The Sustainable Prisons Project (SPP) is in the news! We have received extensive press coverage from media sources nationwide. The common threads emphasized by all are the innovative nature and the collaborative mode of the work that have contributed to the inspiring success of the SPP. Click on the links below — and feel free to provide your comments.

KBTC Northwest Now: Click here to watch the episode

Northwest Now’s Daniel Kopec hosts SPP Project Co-Director Dan Pacholke, Project Manager Kelli Bush and Cedar Creek Corrections Center Superintendent Douglas Cole to explore how the unique collaboration between the DOC and The Evergreen State College is addressing some of Washington’s pressing social and scientific concerns.

KBTC Full Focus: Being Green: Click here to watch the episode

This episode of Full Focus takes a look at how the Sustainable Prisons Project is engaging offenders in the rearing of endangered frogs and the inspiring stories that have resulted.

KCTS 9 Connects: Click here to watch the episode

KCTS 9 reporter Leslie McClurg takes the show behind bars when she visits the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, Washington to discover how the SPP has inspired one offender to pursue college credit by studying sustainability while incarcerated.

The Promised Land featuring Nalini Nadkarni: Click here to listen to the episode

SPP Co-Director Nalini Nadkarni escorts host Majora Carter from the treetops of the Olympic Rainforest canopy to the incarcerated men at Stafford Creek to lead them in a lively and insightful discussion of “what should happen next” for the SPP and sustainability in society.

Science Nation: Click here to watch and read

Science Nation explores how the SPP  and inmates at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Washington are helping themselves and nature to recover by working together to raise endangered prairie plants for restoration.

PBS News Hour, Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Click here to watch the PBS news hour segment (short version)

Click here to view the OPB Oregon Field Guide segment (long version)

Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Jule Gilfillan details how the SPP is helping the military and two Washington prisons to reduce waste and protect the environment by training offenders as conservation scientists; all while saving money and supporting biodiversity.

To donate to the Sustainable Prisons Project, CLICK HERE to visit the Evergreen Foundation’s website.

Opportunity to Support the Sustainable Prisons Project

Nearly a month has passed since the announcement of the deep state budget cuts that terminated the Sustainable Prisons Project’s two-year contract with the Washington State Department of Corrections. The Sustainable Prison Project (SPP) staff and students at The Evergreen State College have been working to secure alternative sources of funding to keep the Project moving forward.  As mentioned in a previous blog, initial success has come in the form of “bridge funding”  allocated by the The Evergreen State College. This funding will provide temporary breathing room, supporting the Project’s core staff and operations through June 2011.  Even with the bridge funding, however, SPP programs and staff will be significantly reduced if additional funding sources are not secured. Therefore, it is at this time that we ask SPP supporters to step forward and aid in the continuation of the Sustainable Prisons Project by donating to the Project’s fund.

The need for the scientific research, conservation work,  and education provided by the SPP is at an all-time high. The recent state  budget cuts have induced severe changes for DOC: 300 jobs have been frozen or cut, monthly offender lock-downs have been implemented, and drug treatment and education programs have been substantially reduced.  Meanwhile, the loss of biodiversity, accelerated by increasing pollution and habitat destruction, threatens the very ecosystems on which we all rely.

Many of our projects address these problems by connecting scientists, offenders, prison staff, and graduate students in collaborations to implement cost-saving sustainable practices, captive-rear endangered native species, while also providing a multitude of learning opportunities for offenders, students and scientists.  If the Project ends, society as a whole will lose the beneficial human, economic, and ecological impacts made possible by the SPP at a critical time when the Project can  serve as a national model for addressing societal problems in a healthy and sustainable way.

We are actively seeking grant and foundation support;  it is our goal to restore funding to our previous level by June 2011. This process of pursuing grant and foundation funds, however,  takes several months to complete. Donations received by the SPP at this time will help ensure our work continues as planned while the process of applying for grants is underway.  If you have ever wished to be involved with the Project, or have been involved and have wanted to “do more”, now is your opportunity to make a difference by providing education, conservation, and life-changing hope.

Examples of what your donation will provide:

$25 = 100sqft of Rare Native Prairie Plants restoration

$100 = one fully raised Oregon Spotted Frog

$200 = total sponsorship for one Science and Sustainability Lecture in a prison

$500 = supplies needed for the new Butterfly Conservation Greenhouse

$1,200 = Science Training for Conservation Projects for offenders and staff

$1,300 = one Student Research Intern’s monthly stipend

$5,000 = Green Collar Job Training Program for offenders (beekeeping or arboriculture)

Despite funding setbacks, the SPP continues to receive regional and international recognition.  We have received hundreds of notes and responses to the DOC termination announcement from people around the country and the world, stating their support for the project and their desire that it continue. The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University recently selected the SPP as a recipient of the “Bright Ideas in Innovation in American Government Award” for 2010.  The SPP was also featured on the National Science Foundation’s website in a Science Nation video segment detailing the important impacts of the prairie plant restoration efforts underway at Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

While unfortunate, the loss of the DOC contract presents opportunities for growth. We are seeking participation from individuals, foundations, and agencies in the form of volunteers, ideas, contacts, and funds. Any contribution, whether it be $200 to sponsor the honorarium for a Science and Sustainability lecture, or a donation of supplies for our captive rearing projects, will make a real impact on the future course of the SPP and the lives of those it touches.  We thank you for your interest and support, and encourage you to share in the success of the Sustainable Prisons Project by making a contribution. Donations may be made through the Evergreen Foundation by clicking here.  We also invite you to share this message with others.

Thank you!

Please contact Project Co-Director Nalini Nadkarni (nadkarnn@evergreen.edu) or Project Manager Kelli Bush (bushk@evergreen.edu or (360) 867-6863) with any additional questions, gifting arrangements or information on how to become more involved with the Sustainable Prisons Project.

Building a Bridge

In our last entry we wrote to tell you that funding for the Sustainable Prisons Project (SPP) was cut as a result of significant budget cuts within the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) and throughout the state. Since we received the news, Sustainable Prisons Project students and staff have been working hard to identify alternative funding sources.

We are pleased to report our first major success. The Evergreen State College (TESC) has provided “bridge funding” from reserves of the Academic Division. This will serve as a temporary bridge to give us “breathing space” through June 2011. It will provide enough support to: maintain our basic operations; provide one science lecture per month (rotated among our current corrections centers); support one graduate student; and initiate a green collar training program in arboriculture. It will also allow us to: maintain our website; connect with the media; and write grant proposals to foundations and individuals to further support and extend our work.

Our Co-leader, Dan Pacholke (WDOC), has extended the reassurance that the WDOC will continue to support this work with available staff effort, access to inmates and facilities, and guidance in shaping our program for the future. We have also been working with our conservation partners — at The Nature Conservancy, the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Zoo Foundation, and the Department of Defense — to augment their current funding so that we can sustain our current commitments of raising endangered frogs, prairie plants, and rare butterflies to enhance regional biodiversity and provide training for inmates.

Despite this funding setback, awareness of our project expands. Just yesterday, we learned that our project has been featured on the website of the National Science Foundation – a piece produced by Science Nation, which was filmed at Stafford Creek Corrections Center this summer. It captures very well our vision of linking offenders with science and conservation directly, and the benefits that accrue to all involved. Here is the link: http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/sciencebehindbars.jsp

During these difficult economic times, it has been warming to witness people stepping forward to help as much as they can. We have received hundreds of notes and responses to the WDOC termination announcement on our blog from people around the country and around the world, stating their support for the project, and their desire for it to continue. We will work hard to find ways to keep our program moving forward in the short and the long term.