Category Archives: Education

Seeing Two Worlds Combine

By Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator

(Follow-up post from May 2015 lecture at WCCW.)

Tiffany Webb is finishing her graduate degree in Environmental and Social Justice at the Evergreen State College. Her interdisciplinary thesis focuses on the intersection of environmental justice and education in prisons.

I can’t keep down some strong feelings about leaving every time I am at a lecture now. After nearly two years as the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series Program Coordinator, I only have two more lectures to host before a new MES graduate student finds their own spot in this position. It is exciting to pass the opportunity to someone new, offering an experience that I imagine will be just as eye-opening and rewarding as my own. At the same time, it is very difficult to leave knowing I likely will never again see the people I’ve worked with, learned alongside, and advocated for in prisons.

Tiffany Webb presenting on the environmental justice paradigm and climate justice.

Tiffany presenting on the EJ paradigm and climate justice at Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

Tuesday was a beautiful day. The SPP Network Manager and I have developed science and sustainability education certificates for incarcerated men and women who attend the lecture series regularly. After Tuesday’s presentations, a woman who has been going to lectures at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) for years received the very first certificate recommending transfer credit at Evergreen! We shared such a moment of pride in that room—women lifting each other up and celebrating, owning the classroom and their minds. I am thankful for these moments of victory behind prison walls, and the lasting impact formalization of the Science and Sustainability Lecture Series will have.

Chelsea Smith Waddell, recent MES graduate, giving a presenting on her thesis research.

Chelsea Smith Waddell, recent MES graduate, giving a presentation on her thesis research at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

That day, the new MES Director—someone I consider a huge mentor—Kevin Francis, gave a presentation. Chelsea Smith Waddell, one of the most brilliant and vibrant women I know, also joined us and she shared her thesis research with the class. Her research focused on habitat characteristics of the Oregon Spotted Frog, an endangered frog species being reared at Cedar Creek Corrections Center and released on WA prairies through SPP partnerships.

Kevin Francis, MES Director at the Evergreen State College lecturing at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Kevin Francis, MES Director at the Evergreen State College, lecturing at WCCW.

It was amazing to be in that classroom, seeing my two worlds combine: my Evergreen and WCCW peers all in one room, engaging in education together. It brings me joy to know that while I am leaving this deeply important work, it doesn’t end here. The incarcerated men and women I know continue to push for more education and classroom space at their prisons. The Evergreen faculty and graduate students continue to engage with education outside of an academic institution “bubble”. And unique and empowering spaces will continue to develop in prisons as more people become aware of the injustices associated with the U.S. criminal justice system.”

Roots of Success Marathon Instructor Training, Part Two: Day Four

Photos and text by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Part One of the blog available here.

The four-day Roots of Success training event culminated with a day at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCC-W). It was a joy to be in the classroom with incarcerated women from WCC-W and Mission Creek Corrections Center. The attention and interest they gave the material were palpable, and I cannot wait to see them as instructors! Here are some photo highlights from the day.

Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at San Francisco State University and the Founder and Executive Director of Roots of Success Raquel Pinderhughes teaches a class of future Roots of Success instructors.

Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at San Francisco State University and the Founder and Executive Director of Roots of Success Raquel Pinderhughes teaches a class of future Roots of Success instructors.

A future Roots of Success instructor takes careful notes.

A future Roots of Success instructor takes careful notes.

student-portrait

The instructor candidates were attentive throughout the presentations. They showed grace and optimism in the face of demanding and dense subject matter.

mirror

The classroom was illuminated by a skylight, and the day light entering the classroom was a lovely compliment to the intellectual and social illumination inside.

The future instructors were joined by staff from several prisons. They serve as liaisons for the Roots of Success program, and their enthusiasm for the course is a huge asset.

Paula Andrew, Dorothy Trainer, Ron Howell, Mark Black, and Greg Banner are DOC staff and SPP superstars--they do so much for our programs! The attended the training so that they can offer full support to the instructors and students of the course.

Paula Andrew, Dorothy Trainer, Ron Howell, Mark Black, and Greg Banner are DOC staff and SPP superstars—they do so much for our programs! The attended the training so that they can offer full support to the instructors and students of the course.

This Friday, I will visit the first Roots of Success class at WCC-W accompanied by SPP’s new program coordinator, Emily Passarelli. Emily takes over Roots coordination from Christina Stalnaker. Christina has graduated, and she left the program in great shape. She streamlined administration for Roots to the point that Emily will be able to give attention to developing further programs. Emily’s title is Green Track Coordinator, to represent a wider focus. Can’t wait to see where we take things next!

Working with the Oregon Spotted Frog

Introduction by SPP Frog and Turtle Program Coordinator, Sadie Gilliom.  Blog by SPP Frog and Turtle Program Inmate Technician, Mr. Anglemyer.

Mr. Anglemyer, the author of the following blog, is one of the inmate technicians for the Sustainability in Prisons Project’s Frog and Turtle Program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC). Each technician brings unique skills to the program. We like to provide opportunities for all of the technicians to develop the skills they have in addition to learning new ones. Anglemyer is an aspiring journalist and expressed interest in writing about his experience with the frogs and turtles. The following blog is Anglemyer’s first piece. Although dark at times, I think he provides an interesting and important perspective to consider. It has given me insight into how working with an endangered species can stimulate deeper thoughts and self-reflection and how some aspects of the program may be improved by providing the technicians with more hopeful information for the future of the frogs and our world.

Rearing OSF Tadpoles at CCCC

Taking care of Oregon Spotted Frog [OSF] tadpoles is fairly easy…yet, stressful. It’s easy because the tadpoles pretty much take care of themselves. All we have to do is keep them supplied with food and clean water. The stress factor comes in the form of “unknowns” and “what if’s”. The “unknowns” are only a factor because of our lack of experience. When I say “we” and “our”, I’m speaking of me and my co-worker. We’re both prisoners at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, and neither one of us had ever heard of the Oregon Spotted Frog before we started working with them. The “what if’s” are: What if we make a mistake somehow, and they all die? What if we don’t make a mistake and they all die? What if it is thought that we were neglectful, incompetent, or even malicious?

Mr. Anglemyer holding an Oregon spotted frog. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

I have no rational reason to have any of these fears. The staff at the prison and the people connected to the program have been helpful and supportive. They give us clear instructions and everything we need to carry them out. Furthermore, these fears are my own. My co-worker does not share them. I’ve always been a bit of a worrywart—it’s been a rough go. Once bitten, twice shy and all that jive. Murphy’s Law (what can go wrong, will go wrong) has been a constant companion in a large part of my life.

On top of all that, taking care of an endangered species engenders deeper and darker thoughts concerning mortality. Not just the existence and mortality of the animals under my charge, but of the entire species, and my own species as well. If the OSF is doomed, aren’t we all doomed? On a long enough timeline everything and everyone is doomed. Frogs, people, even our planet and solar system will one day be gone. If that were not the case, life would be bland and meaningless. Please don’t regard me as some type of banal armchair (or in my case, steel cot) philosopher for expressing these sentiments. I’m fully aware that these thoughts and feelings are not new and original. Since the first caveman contemplated his own navel, people have struggled with these notions. In the past, present, and future people have and will continue to ponder this stuff, until…well, until…there’s no one left to ponder anything (think about Buddhist teachings on impermanence, and Shelley’s poem Ozymandias). All I’m trying to relay is that working so close to a species that is close to the brink of extinction magnifies these feelings.

Now enough with the heavy stuff, apart from the above stresses, fears, and existential baggage, working with the Oregon Spotted Frogs is extremely rewarding. It’s the most interesting thing that I’ve taken part in in the last decade—and I’ve only been in prison for half that last decade. In that last half decade, I’ve been relegated to necessary yet menial work; I spent three years mopping a top tier at Coyote Ridge. So working with endangered animals is a new and stimulating change. Watching the tadpoles change into frogs and documenting these changes, studying conservation biology, working with people from an educational, rather than, a correctional setting is a great experience. I’ve been exposed to critters that I would’ve only read about. Caring for them connects me to them in a way that reading about them alone would not. And through this connection to these creatures I’m connected in a larger way to the plight of all the other species that will soon no longer be because of my and my species affinity, no, not affinity, rather addiction to strip malls and track housing.

And the great hope that can be taken from the existence of programs like these in the prison sphere, an area of society that is traditionally punitive and reactionary, is that maybe the pendulum is swinging towards a more compassionate world.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

carrying-conetainers

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.

watering

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.

frog

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

 

Roots of Success Marathon Instructor Training, Part 1: The first three days

By Christina Stalnaker, SPP Graduate Research Assistant and Roots of Success Coordinator

After a rigorous, 4-day training event, all 12 prisons in Washington State have a cadre of Roots of Success instructors. Each day, a fresh group of instructor candidates learned the necessary skills to teach Roots’ environmental literacy curriculum. In total, we certified 31 new instructors representing programs at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, Larch Corrections Center, Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women, Olympic Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center, and Washington Corrections Center for Women.

On the first day of training, Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes, founder of Roots of Success, teaches and certifies Roots instructor candidates from WCC. Master Trainers observe her teaching methods in preparation for the next two days, when they will teach and certify the candidates themselves. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

On the first day of training, Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes, founder of Roots of Success and expert on Green Workforce Training, taught and certified Roots instructor candidates from WCC. Master Trainer candidates observed her teaching methods in preparation for the next two days, when they would teach and certify instructor candidates themselves. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

The first three days of the training were held at Washington Corrections Center, and served to train fifteen male Roots instructors. At the same time, 6 of our exemplary and seasoned instructors earned their promotion to Master Trainer.

Several weeks prior to the big event, Master Trainer candidates from Stafford Creek Corrections Center, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center, and Washington State Penitentiary began studying Roots’ teaching aides. Roots of Success Director Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes led the course on the first day, and the 6 observed and took notes. Then she handed  the reigns over to the future Master Trainers; for two days, they took turns leading the class.

Master Trainers follow the day’s agenda with their training scripts as they take notes on Dr. Pinderhughes teaching techniques. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Master Trainer candidates used their training scripts to follow each lesson as they took notes on Dr. Pinderhughes’ teaching techniques. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

The Stafford Creek Master Trainer team- Cyril Walrond, David Duhaime, and Grady Mitchell- teach instructor candidates for the first time. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

On day 2, the Stafford Creek Master Trainer team–Cyril Walrond, David Duhaime, and Grady Mitchell–taught instructor candidates for the first time. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Dr. Pinderhughes met with the Master Trainer candidates for several hours after each training day to review notes, give and receive critiques, and hone their instructional skills. These Master Trainers now have the credentials to train and certify new instructors for the program. Certifying Master Trainers is a major accomplishment for SPP-WA & WDOC; Roots of Success has become nearly self-sustaining. This valuable education program is gaining momentum, and graduating hundreds of students across the state.

Congratulations to all the newly certified Roots of Success Master Trainers and Instructors! A giant Thank You goes out to Roots staff, Master Trainers, new instructors, WDOC staff, and SPP GRAs for helping us take this monumental step forward in our Roots of Success program!!!

Men from Clallam Bay and Larch Corrections Center attend the Roots of Success Instructor certification course May 10, 2015. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Men from Clallam Bay and Larch Corrections Center attended the Roots of Success Instructor certification course so that they could teach the environmental literacy program at their facilities. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Kieth Parkins, Roots Master Trainer from WSP, works with a future Roots of Success instructor. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Kieth Parkins, Roots Master Trainer candidate from WSP, works one-on-one with a future Roots of Success instructor during a class exercise. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Grady Mitchell, Stafford Creek Roots Master Trainer, takes the helm of the Roots classroom. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

For a few hours, Grady Mitchell, Stafford Creek Roots Master Trainer, took the helm of the Roots instructor classroom. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Roots instructors are most successful when they work as teaching teams. Here Cyril Walrond, Stafford Creek Roots Master Trainer, takes notes on the chalkboard and engages students as they describe the characteristics of their future students. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Roots instructors are most successful when they work as teaching teams. Here Cyril Walrond, Stafford Creek Roots Master Trainer candidate, challenges students to describe the characteristics of their future students. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Aliesha Baldé, Roots of Success staff, documented the entire training via photograph and video. Master Trainers use the videos as a training tool to refine their instruction techniques. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Aliesha Baldé, Roots of Success staff, documented the entire training via photograph and video. Master Trainers used the videos as a training tool to refine their instruction techniques. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Be on the look out for Part 2 of the photo gallery with highlights from the Roots of Success training with the women at Washington Corrections Center for Women and Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.

New Turtle & Frog Technicians

We recently hired two new inmate technicians that bring exciting new skills to the Frog and Turtle Program! Inmate technician Anglemyer is an aspiring journalist and inmate technician Boysen has skills in plumbing and mechanics. Both technicians have already proven to be great assets to the frog and turtle program by improving the frog and turtle tank structures. Under their care, the Oregon spotted frog tadpoles are strong and healthy and the western pond turtles are doing great!

Anglemyer and Boysen in the turtle facility.  Photo Credit: Sadie Gilliom

Anglemyer and Boysen in the turtle facility. Photo Credit: Sadie Gilliom

Here is an excerpt from Anglemyer’s cover letter that expresses his dedication to the frog and turtle program:

Seeking Turtles

Goals

With his interest in journalism, we hope to hear more about his experience with the frogs and turtles in the future! We are excited to see what both Anglemyer and Boysen continue to bring to the program!

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!

Sustainability… in Prison? SPP Coordinator and MES Graduate Candidate, Tiffany Webb, shares her experience of working in prisons

By Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator

Cross posted from the Evergreen State College, Master of Environmental Studies Program blog.

I don’t think I have ever encountered anyone with dreams and aspirations of working in a prison. I can certainly say I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I applied for an internship position with the Sustainability in Prisons Project in 2013. I was set on Evergreen’s Master of Environmental Studies Program, but wasn’t quite sure where my professional life was headed.

Nature Drawing Workshop at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Dr. Carri LeRoy, SPP Co-Director and Evergreen Faculty.

Nature Drawing Workshop at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Dr. Carri LeRoy, SPP Co-Director and Evergreen Faculty.

Moving from Alabama to Washington State was a huge step, but I was excited and ready. I had just finished my B.S. in earth system science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, completed a grant-funded sustainability project, and rounded out some climate vulnerability work I had been doing with the NASA DEVELOP National Program.

Now I was looking for exciting justice-oriented work in my new Olympia home, and SPP offered that. But I found myself questioning my place in prisons. How could I fundamentally disagree with a system, yet work within it? Even further, how can I apply “sustainability” to a system I don’t actually wish to sustain? These questions have been a driving force throughout my time with SPP. I have worked with the Sustainability in Prisons Project for nearly two years now, and have come to realize the importance of inside-out change makers. So often, those who want to make broad-scale cultural and systemic change clash with institutions of power, sometimes stifling the efficacy of their campaigns. SPP has taken a unique approach by forming a long-term partnership with such an institution, while simultaneously initiating programs that benefit those who are currently incarcerated. From organic gardens to inmate-led environmental classrooms, the SPP model has been integrated widely in WA prisons over the past 10 years. This has inspired changes within individual prison facilities and more broadly across the entire department of corrections—SPP now has a national network!

 

Talking with a few women after a lecture at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW). Photo by Lindsey Hamilton, SPP Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly Coordinator.

Talking with a few women after a lecture at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW). Photo by Lindsey Hamilton, SPP Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Coordinator.

SPP is also connected to Evergreen, which allows a bridge between higher education, students and faculty, prisons and staff, and prisoners. Through the partnership between Evergreen and Washington State corrections, I am not only able to learn about issues of mass incarceration and theories of prison reform within a classroom, but I am actually able to be part of providing resources and educational programs for incarcerated men and women. Inmates constantly express interest in environmental resources and information for how to be part of the green economy once they are released, and it has been eye-opening to try and meet their needs. This is a population and perspective that many environmental organizations tend to neglect and I have witnessed the importance of these incarcerated individuals within the broader environmental discussion.

Presenting one of the first rounds of certificates to inmates who regularly attend the lecture series. Photo by Joslyn Trivett, SPP Network Manager.

Presenting one of the first rounds of certificates to inmates who regularly attend the lecture series. Photo by Joslyn Trivett, SPP Network Manager.

Presenting at SCCC. Photo by John Dominoski, DOC Staff at SCCC.

Presenting at SCCC. Photo by John Dominoski, DOC Staff at SCCC.

Working with corrections staff, prisoners, and environmental community organizations has broadened my understanding of environmental justice— just how many populations are we leaving out of environmental initiatives? This position has inspired me to speak out as an ally for incarcerated individuals and to further advocate for prison reform, both from an environmental and social justice lens. I plan to stay involved with SPP and volunteer with other organizations working inside prisons, with ex-felons, as well as tackling prison policy and other issues in the criminal justice system. While this endeavor has presented a plethora of professional opportunities, the most important thing it has offered me is the experience of meaningful work with people who have a diverse range of perspectives and interests. This is an experience I will carry with me far beyond my time at Evergreen and with SPP.

SPP program coordinators with the WCCW SPP Liaison after a virtual tour of sustainability programs.

SPP program coordinators with the WCCW SPP Liaison after a virtual tour of sustainability programs.

I am sad to be leaving my position this year, but excited to know that a fresh mind will be joining the program. Leaving SPP also means losing connection with some of the most inspirational people I have met: prisoners who teach and facilitate environmental courses; people of color who empower themselves and fellow prisoners through amazing spoken word and art pieces about racism in America and the criminal justice system; and even corrections staff who are trying to make prison conditions better, dedicating what little spare time they have to supporting and furthering SPP programs. That doesn’t begin to cover the surprising range of inspiration I have felt in prisons; these memories and emotions will be with me no matter where my journey takes me next.

Talking with a woman at WCCW before the lecture with Yoga Behind Bars. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

Talking with a woman at WCCW before the lecture with Yoga Behind Bars. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

 

Each One, Teach One

by Christina Stalnaker, SPP Roots of Success Coordinator and Graduate Research Assistant

I’ve had the privilege of working with and visiting several prison classrooms delivering the Roots of Success environmental literacy curriculum.  I’m encouraged to see inmates challenging themselves with material designed for graduate students (some lessons are similar to what we are learning in our MES core classes). Yet I am even more struck by the classroom atmosphere of teamwork and camaraderie.  These prisoners come from many different backgrounds and their identities often pit inmate against inmate.  I can’t help but ask myself: In this potentially volatile environment, how is a Roots course able to generate productive discussions?

Our dedicated education programs include monthly science and sustainability lectures at three prisons, an environmental literacy program at three others, and many vocational horticulture programs offered in partnership with community colleges and WSU Extension offices.  Photo by SPP staff.

Roots students at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) work in groups to finish assignments in their workbooks.  These activities challenge inmates to think critically about the environment. Photo by Erica Turnbull.

One unique aspect to the program is the teacher. The course is lead by inmates trained as facilitators, similar to the model for the Redemption Project. I’ve heard from pupils of both programs that they prefer to learn from other inmates. They feel the message delivered is more genuine, and not driven by authority. Chadwick Flores, Deputy Director of Roots of Success, refers to these instructors as “internal advocates.” The facilitators become supporters of sustainable practices within the prison system and inspire other offenders to work in the green economy, start green businesses, and consider how their own actions impact the environment.

Roots brings inmates from all walks of life to focus on the health of our environment. The many environmental issues we face today are sometimes overwhelming, yet they are issues that we all face. The environment is a common denominator across these diverse populations: a better future for all provides enough reason to set aside our differences and learn how to find solutions to these problems together.

Jason McDaniels teaches the Roots of Success curriculum to fellow inmates at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC). Photo by an inmate at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.

Jason McDaniels teaches the Roots of Success curriculum to fellow inmates at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC). Photo by an inmate at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.

Mr. Youngblood, Roots Instructor at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, shared with us the unique dynamic of their classroom:

Roots of Success is not about getting an A+ on a test, making the Dean’s list, or getting a degree based on the number of credits you have compiled. This is real education—student-centered learning in an environment where “Each one, Teach One” is our Mantra. The students are inspired to “be more” simply because they are involved in the process of their own learning.

In the instructors evaluation there is a question that asks: “What is the single most valuable thing you gained from teaching?”  My response follows: I was amazed at the dynamic that developed… students from different cultures, races, religious beliefs, and even gang affiliations all came together and worked as a team. That was and is truly invaluable.

Coyote Ridge's Roots instructors; Mr. Youngblood is on the right. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

Coyote Ridge’s Roots instructors stand in front of an SPP banner created by one of their peers; Mr. Youngblood is on the right. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.