Category Archives: Nature inside

It was a Toad-ally Ribbiting Lecture with the Special Offenders Unit

Blog and photos by Liliana Caughman, SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator

Last month the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series held its first ever lecture at the Special Offenders Unit (SOU) at Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC).

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This lecture, led by our amazingly talented Frog and Turtle Program Coordinator Sadie Gilliom, proved to be one of the most interactive and fun lectures of all time.

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The audience was lively but respectful. They were eager to learn more and more about the “Amazing World of Amphibians”.

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At least one of the students who attended the lecture is hearing impaired, so we had the added pleasure of seeing the lecture interpreted through sign language.

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Watching the stories about amphibians come to life through movement made the presentation even more captivating and stimulating.

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The students were particularly enthralled by a story in which Sadie was bitten by an amphibian! Many were shocked to learn that the critters have small sandpaper-like teeth.

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Sadie offered multiple hands-on activities, and the students were able to engage with the sights and sounds of amphibians, while also learning a bit about their role in ecology.

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In one activity the students were each given two papers. On command they all raised sheet no. 1 into the air and looked around the classroom. There was a plethora of beautiful and highly varied species of amphibians.

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Then they were instructed to hold up sheet no. 2 and look around. It was only bullfrogs. This helped students conceptualize the importance of biodiversity.

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Next the students worked on matching pictures of fully grown amphibians to images of their egg masses. This was an exploratory way to learn about the life cycle of these fascinating creatures.

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The lecture ended with an activity in which Sadie played audio sounds of different amphibian’s calls and the class tried to identify which species it belonged to. It was impressive how well some of the students did on this and we learned that they can often hear frogs chirping from a nearby wetland.

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It was a thrilling and inspiring day of learning. After being unsure of the reception we’d find in the Special Offenders Unit, we were delighted to discover one of the best lecture audiences we have had. We here at SPP, as well as MCC staff and students, are all looking forward to the next one.

New Program Offered by SPP: Bee Certification

By Emily Passarelli, SPP Green Track Program Coordinator

It is with great excitement that I announce: SPP is adding beekeeping certification to our lovely list of programs. Our goal is to bring this program to every prison hosting beekeeping within the next few years. As Green Track Program Coordinator, I have the amazing opportunity to coordinate two programs: beekeeping certification and Roots of Success.

Staff and offender beekeepers take a break to pose for the camera. Photo by SPP.

Staff and offender beekeepers take a break to pose for the camera. Photo by SPP.

This beekeeping certification will be a 10-20 hour course taught by a local beekeeping volunteers. Inmates and DOC staff will earn the title of “Apprentice.” If they find that beekeeping is their calling, they have the opportunity to advance to “Journeyman.” If they’re REALLY dedicated they can even advance up to “Master” (though there are only 6 Masters in the entire state of Washington!). This class will be a spectacular opportunity for hands-on experience in a green jobs field. It will also be a great way for our prisons to do more for honeybee conservation. We hope that this certification program will give a chance for everyone interested to learn about bees and their amazing life stories. To learn more about these amazing creatures check out Joslyn Trivett’s recent blog or our new beekeeping page!

We have already had two graduating classes at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. That’s almost 45 graduates! Prisons next in line to bring in beekeeping certification are SCCC, WCCW, MCC, WSP, CRCC, and AHCC. We cannot wait to see what the future has in store for our partnerships with bees!

A graduating class of newly certified beekeepers. Photo by SPP Staff.

A graduating class of newly certified beekeepers. Photo by SPP Staff.

SPP feels very positively about work with honeybees in prisons. Photo by SPP staff.

SPP feels very positively about work with honeybees in prisons. Photo by SPP staff.

Turtles and Plantain at Larch Corrections Center

by Kelli Bush, SPP Program Manager

From left to right, a WDFW biologist, SPP program coordinator Sadie Gilliom, and two new turtle technicians, discuss how to biologist how to care for a western pond turtle. Photo by Kelli Bush.

WDFW Biologist Stefani Bergh, Facilities Manager Terry Hettinger, and the new turtle technicians discuss how to care for western pond turtles at Larch Corrections Center. Photo by Carl Elliott.

It has been an exciting year at Larch Corrections Center (LCC) as two new SPP conservation programs have been established at the minimum security prison located east of Vancouver, WA. Prison staff and leadership have been excellent partners—they worked quickly to create a new turtle lab and build plantain beds, and have been great collaborators and communicators.

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The first new program involves work with state-endangered western pond turtles (Actinemys marmorata), that builds on the success of the turtle program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists have been finding turtles in the wild afflicted with a shell disease. Sick reptiles are transferred from the wild to the Oregon Zoo to receive acute veterinary care. After initial treatment, turtles are transported to LCC to receive extended care and monitoring. Inmate technicians are providing excellent care. Once recovered, turtles will be returned to the wild. Currently Larch Corrections Center is caring for eight turtles which will likely be released late March or early April.

Taylor's checkerspot butterfly caterpillars munch on plantain at SPP's butterfly rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly caterpillars munch on plantain at SPP’s butterfly rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Plantain for butterflies

SPP and LCC have also teamed up with the Oregon Zoo to grow narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata). This plant is a critical food source for federally-endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies (Euphydryas editha taylori) which are being reared at the Oregon Zoo and at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women. LCC is growing about 3,500 plants to feed rapidly growing butterfly larvae at the Oregon Zoo. One to two times per week, inmate technicians will harvest leaves from plantain plants grown in 10 raised bed gardens at LCC.

We are so pleased to collaborate with the fabulous folks at Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and others to bring these programs to LCC!

 

Honeybee love

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

I am dangerously allergic to yellowjacket stings. I have been stung by yellowjackets many times, and I fear and avoid them.

As a good ecologist, I know that honeybees are very different than yellowjackets, but I still wanted to stay away from them. Even the thought of bees, wasps, and hornets has been enough to scare me. I tolerated SPP’s honeybee programs because I supported them in principle, but never wanted too get too close.

A few weeks ago, I suddenly realized that I’ve changed: I have learned to love honeybees. It happened by accident—I didn’t set out to change my mind, but changed it is!

I love this photo of bees in flight; on some of them, you can clearly see their "baskets" full of pollen on their rear legs. Image from organizedchaos.com.

I love this photo of bees in flight; on the central bee, you can clearly see one of her “baskets” full of pollen. Image from organizedchaos.com.

I think the shift started last summer, working on King 5’s story on beekeeping. Mr. Anglemeyer, Mr. Boyson, and Officer Epling’s enthusiasm and praise for the program must have been infectious. It was also the first time I met Laurie Pyne of the Olympia Beekeepers Association, and she radiates excitement about honeybees. Last fall, her guest lecture on honeybees had my rapt attention, and I memorized parts of her presentation without even trying.

Also during recent months, we have heard more and more beekeeping interest from prison staff and inmates. Cedar Creek has graduated their second class of Apprentice Beekeepers. Stafford Creek Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center for Women, and the Penitentiary also have hives. For the prisons that don’t have honeybees yet, we keep hearing that they want them: Clallam Bay Corrections Center, Airway Heights, Coyote Ridge, and Washington Corrections Center all want honeybees too…time for me to get with the program! Luckily, seems I already have.

If I stood right next to a hive, I might still feel like screaming.

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Jamar Glenn and Fiona Edwards stand among honeybees flying to and from their hives. Photo by SPP staff.

But it seems more likely that I would feel like this:

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A beekeeper at Washington State Penitentiary shows his love for a honeybee swarm. Photo by DOC staff.

Thanks for being patient with me, honeybees. I’m your new biggest fan.

 

Nothing like an octopus in prison!

Photos by SPP Science & Sustainability Lecture Series Coordinator, Liliana Caughman

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Lecture series student Ismael Lee and guest lecturer Rus Higley of the Marine Science and Technology (MaST) Center at Highline College observe a red octopus.

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Jillian Mayer, an AmeriCorps volunteer who works at MaST, walks the octopus among the aisles at the Science and Sustainability lecture.

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During the lecture on octopus intelligence we learned that octopuses have smarts not only in their brain, but in their tentacles and skin. (Check out those good looking smarts! ;>))

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Students take a closer look at the visiting red octopus and get an immersive lesson in marine biology.

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Rus Higley attempts to derive the meaning of “intelligence” to a full classroom at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC).

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We at SPP would like to thank Rus for initiating the first ever live animal lecture at SCCC. With the inspiration of this fantastic creature, the students were more engaged and inquisitive than ever.

Live Falcon and Certification Ceremony makes Lecture Soar

Our friends at the West Sound Wildlife Shelter sure know how to draw a crowd. Their most recent lecture at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) drew the highest attendance we have ever seen: 92 inmates attended, blowing the previous record of 84 attendees out of the water!

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The women at WCCW are passionate about wildlife and were completely enthralled by special guest Pele, the loveable American kestrel. When the trainers, Nancy and Debra, unveiled the raptor the students let out a collective gasp and then fell dead-quiet; the demonstrated respect was inspiring to witness.

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Inmate students look on in awe as the American Kestrel Falcon is revealed at the Science and Sustainability lecture.

The presentation was engaging and enjoyable. The inmates asked a host of thought-provoking questions and many wanted to know how they could make a difference in the lives of birds. The guest lecturers provided detailed answers and explained how the women could volunteer for the West Sound Wildlife animal shelter upon release.

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Nancy LeMay, the handler from West Sound Wildlife, brings Pele closer to the audience.

This was a very special lecture. Perhaps another reason for the large crowd was the certification ceremony. We distributed 12 certificates to those who have reached Lecture Series attendance milestones.

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Each inmate student who earned a certificate came up to the front of the class and shook hands with Liliana Caughman, the Lecture Series Program Coordinator.

The lecture class was excited to celebrate their personal achievements and those of their peers. Four people were awarded Level Two certificates for attending 10 or more lectures, and eight more were awarded the first level of certification, given after 5 lectures. Many inmates approached me after the lecture to share that they are motivated to keep attending in order to reach the third level of certification, which recommends college credit.

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Inmate Cicely McFarland is thrilled to receive her first certificate for attending five Science and Sustainability Lectures.

This lecture was a resounding success. We owe great thanks to our star presenters from West Sound Wildlife Shelter, and of course, to the animals themselves. Further, I am very proud of the women who earned their certificates and felt honored to be a part of a positive milestone in their lives.

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A big thanks goes out to the star of the show, Pele, and we appreciate the dedication of Nancy, Deb, and West Sound Wildlife animal shelter.

I think I can speak for women of the WCCW lecture series when I say we can’t wait for the next live animal presentation or the next certificate ceremony. Maybe next time we will reach 100 attendees!

Growing Sagebrush in Central Washington

by Environmental Specialist Dorothy Trainer and SPP Program Manager Kelli Bush

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The hoop house at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center brings nature inside the prison with a new conservation nursery. Photo by Kelli Bush.

With funding support from the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE), Coyote Ridge Correction Center (CRCC) has launched a new Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) Sagebrush Steppe Conservation Nursery Program. SPP is a partnership founded by Washington Department of Corrections and The Evergreen State College. The new program also includes collaborators from Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Washington Native Plant Society (WNP), Washington State University Tri-Cities (WSU TC), and IAE.

Plant ecologist and horticulture educator Gretchen Grabber works with an inmate technician filling tray for seed sewing. Photo by CRCC staff.

Plant ecologist and horticulture educator Gretchen Grabber works with an inmate technician filling tray for seed sewing. Photo by CRCC staff.

This spring inmates started 20,000 sage brush plants at CRCC. As an essential component of the program, hands on training and lectures are provided for inmates and staff by plant ecologist and horticulture educator Gretchen Grabber of WNP and WSU TC. The primary goal of this project is to provide sagebrush for restoration of greater sage grouse habitat. Fifty percent of the sagebrush steppe habitat in the United States has been lost to large scale fires, conversion to other land uses, invasive cheat grass, and noxious weeds. Sagebrush habitat provides important shelter and food for the greater sage grouse and many other species. All of the sagebrush plants grown at CRCC will be planted on BLM land for restoration in the Palisades Flat Fire Project area near Wenatchee, Washington.

Facility staff and Superintendent Uttecht eagerly accepted the opportunity to host this new program with very short notice, resulting in a busy spring and summer at CRCC. It was impressive how quickly they built a hoop house, hired an inmate crew, prepared containers for planting, and planted sagebrush seeds.

This is what we want! A seedling sagebrush shows its beauty in the conservation nursery. Photo by Kelli Bush

This is what we want! A seedling sagebrush shows its beauty in the conservation nursery. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Educational lectures and workshops and plant care will continue into fall. Inmate crews, staff, and Gretchen Grabber will assist BLM in planting sagebrush late fall 2015/early winter 2016.

The Sagebrush Steppe Conservation Nursery program at CRCC is part of a multi-state restoration program including nurseries located in Oregon and Idaho corrections centers. The Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) is a founding partner of SPP-Oregon, and they have provided the grant funding and training materials making this program possible.

Here, CRCC’s superintendent, CRCC staff, Getchen Grabber, and representatives from IAE, DOC headquarters, and SPP meet to hash out critical details that will make the program a success. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Here, CRCC’s superintendent, CRCC staff, Getchen Grabber, and representatives from IAE, DOC headquarters, and SPP meet to hash out details critical to the program’s success. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Partners involved in the nursery recently met at CRCC to discuss program status. It was a productive meeting focused on planning for the rest of this season and dreaming about additions for next year. Thank you to each and every collaborator involved and we look forward to watching this program grow! Special thanks to Stacy Moore with IAE for bringing this opportunity to CRCC.

 

 

 

 

 

The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Program Releases Another Butterfly

by Liz Louie, SPP Butterfly Technician
Introduction by Lindsey Hamilton, SPP Butterfly Program Coordinator

Butterfly technician Elizabeth Louie worked with the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (TCB) program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) for more than two years.  She is now one of the few butterfly husbandry experts in the world.  During her time at Mission Creek she made many significant contributions to the program.  She streamlined data collection procedures and created an immaculately organized system for tracking daily activities and progress.  She always found creative solutions to problems when resources and communication with outside expertise was limited.  Lastly, as a senior butterfly technician she ensured high quality butterfly care and effectively trained and inspired incoming technicians.  The program will benefit from her good work for years to come.  Liz will be missed, but we are so happy for her and wish her the best in all that she pursues in life.

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Liz Louie records data on pupae and butterfly weights.

The following is a blog written by Elizabeth Louie, now out of prison in work release:

It has been 26 months and three seasons, with two Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) bosses and three Department of Corrections (DOC) bosses, releasing approximately 8,000 caterpillars and 250 butterflies to the wild. I have come to the end of an amazing journey. As I leave Mission Creek and the TCB program, I want to say THANK YOU for the experience.

It seems appropriate that I’m leaving just as the caterpillars are going into diapause. All the hard work caring for larvae, pupae and eclosing butterflies, conducting breeding and collecting eggs is now done. It’s now a transition period. A period of rest before the cycle begins again, similar to the stage I’m in now. Work release, a time of transition and preparation for my final release into the community.

Liz Louie explains the details of butterfly husbandry to the University of Denver’s Institute for Human – Animal Connection.  Photo by Judith Gerren

Liz Louie explains the details of butterfly husbandry to the University of Denver’s Institute for Human – Animal Connection. Photo by Judith Gerren

A writer from Sierra Magazine recently asked what I thought about the irony of having a butterfly program in prison; the contrast between the delicate, fragile butterfly and the “harshness” of prison life. For me, butterflies are very resilient animals. Their primary habitat was an artillery range, the aftermath of fire and destruction. Metaphorically, the butterfly symbolizes re-birth, new life and beginnings. So with that said, Mission Creek (prison) makes a lot of sense for a surrogate habitat.

Liz is demonstrating how we care for postdiapause larvae.  We keep them in bins with paper bags ("mima mounds") to climb on after they wake up from their winter slumber. Photo by Jody Becker-Green

Liz is demonstrating how we care for postdiapause larvae. We keep them in bins with paper bags (“mima mounds”) to climb on after they wake up from their winter slumber. Photo by Jody Becker-Green

In fact, there are other parallels between the butterflies and prison life. The larvae will sometimes go into second diapause (D2) if they feel conditions are not right. Maybe there’s not enough food, so the larvae will go back to sleep. Similar to D2 larvae, women come in and out of prison. They may not have gotten what they needed from prison the first time, or they lack outside support to help them be successful. But for me personally, at my age, its good to know that the final stage is a butterfly. It means the most beautiful stage of my life is yet to come. All the other stages have been in preparation for that final one.

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Liz Louie shows inmate Samantha Turner how to remove a new pupae from a “mima mound”. This is a very delicate process.

This will be a time in my life that I won’t soon forget. The people I’ve met and the women I’ve worked with, I take away something from each of them. I’ve learned a lot about myself, both the good, and the things I need to change. I have a greater appreciation for the simple things in life. I walk away a stronger person and look forward to whatever life holds.

Inmate Liz Louie feeds a Taylor’s checkerspot honey water from a Q-tip. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele

Inmate Liz Louie feeds a Taylor’s checkerspot honey water from a Q-tip. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

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.

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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!

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