Category Archives: Prison Life

Roots of Success Graduation Speech – Larch Corrections Center

I had the privilege of visiting Larch Corrections Center’s first graduation Roots of Success class in the beginning of December. A huge congratulations is in order for everyone involved. Thank you to the students, instructors, and Classification Counselor Shawn Piliponis for the dedication and hard work. It couldn’t be done without you. We look forward to celebrating many more graduations.

LCC-Roots-gradsI wanted to share one of the seven wonderful speeches that each offender gave. Daniel C. Carter of Larch Corrections Center wrote and presented the speech below. Mr. Carter would love to become a Roots of Success Instructor someday.

That is such a nice smile! :>)

That is such a nice smile! :>)

Dear Ms. Raquel Pinderhughes,

I am writing to thank you for your dedication to helping prisoners to enhance their environmental awareness. I first became aware of your contribution to the Sustainability in Prisons Project while I was working in the Engineering Department at Stafford Creek Corrections Centers in 2012-2013. I was able to be involved in the Beekeeping program as well as doing construction and repair work on the Tilapia Farm, the recycling center, and building the hoop houses that went to the women’s prison. It was also there that I first heard about the Roots of Success class.

Student Daniel Carter gives his speech during Larch's first Roots of Success Graduation. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Student Daniel Carter gives his speech during Larch’s first Roots of Success Graduation. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

I’ve been incarcerated for fifteen years and working at Stafford Creek and being part of the Sustainability in Prisons Project was one of the most rewarding  and fulfilling experiences I’ve had in all that time. Being engaged with the environment and things that are positively impact the planet was therapeutic and even humanizing.

As a person who has spent my entire adult life in prison, I can say with authority of personal experience and years of critical observation that the prison experience is generally humiliating, degrading, and painful. We are cut off from the natural world and the rest of civilization almost completely. Many of us live our lives like animals in zoos: trapped behind concrete walls, razor wire fences, within steel cages, surrounded by extraordinary levels of hostility. It is a hardship to simply not become hardened.

Most of us who endure incarceration suffer from severe trauma as a result of existing under these circumstances. Therefore, I’m convinced being part of these programs, such as those at Stafford Creek and Roots of Success, is critical to keeping men and women who are behind bars in touch with their humanity and in contact with the natural world.

I joined the Roots of Success class here at Larch Corrections Center because of the great work I was exposed to at Stafford. I’ve learned many useful things from the Roots of Success class, such as the impact of industrialization, climate change, green jobs, and alternative ways of behaving to minimize my own carbon footprint. I learned about sustainable development and environmental justice/injustice. I also learned about just how wasteful our consumer culture really is and how our economic and social system contributes to gross impacts on our environment, treating the planet and people as if they are disposable.

The environmental literacy curriculum is well designed and I feel like it is very beneficial. I enjoyed the videos. My favorite one was called, “The Story of Stuff.”

I also liked the module on financial literacy and social entrepreneurship. The fact that it is taught by inmates is also something about it that I really appreciate.

I look forward to getting out of prison and being part of the solution for the problem we are facing in terms of climate change and the destruction of the world’s most precious non-renewable resources. I want to live a lifestyle conducive to the world around me rather than one that corrupts it further. I want my children to learn to respect the biosphere of which they are a part of and to realize their responsibility to maintain and protect it.

Thank you so much for your work. You have helped me to not only being even more environmentally conscious, but even more inspired to propagate environmental literacy and green ways of living.

Sincerely,

Daniel C Carter, #838440

Larch Correction Center

 

Congrats to Mr. Carter and his fellow students and instructors for this fantastic feat!

Lecture Series expands to Shelton

by Liliana Caughman, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator; Photos by Liliana Caughman and Emily Passarelli

Following months of planning, on December 9th, SPP hosted its first ever Science and Sustainability lecture at Washington Corrections Center (WCC) in Shelton, WA. The busy day included two separate lectures to introduce audiences to SPP statewide, and showcase the SPP programs already in place at WCC.

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SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator Liliana Caughman discusses past Science and Sustainability lectures.

Lecture Number One: General Population

The first lecture occurred in the chapel room, which is covered in beautiful murals painted by the official inmate artist. It is a perfect open, yet intimate setting for learning.

A small group of the most avid inmates signed up to join us for this introductory lecture. They were all enthralled with SPP and excited to learn about science and sustainability. All asked questions and offered comments on how to make the lecture series a success at WCC. Everyone took a number of SPP flyers and handouts with them with the promise of distributing them throughout the living units and recruiting their peers to join future lectures.

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WCC inmates and staff look on and smile while learning about SPP at Washington Corrections Center.

This lecture was different than most in that a large number of staff joined the fun: roughly 15 staff members attended, including prison administrators, healthcare workers, correctional officers, and others. They told us that, in the past, it would have been unthinkable for staff and inmates to come together for a lecture. Now, they are hoping to make it a regular thing.

After the conclusion of the first lecture, we headed over to the Intensive Management Unit (IMU) for lecture number two.

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SPP’s Green Track Program Coordinator Emily Passarelli during SPP’s first lecture in the WCC IMU.

Lecture Number Two: IMU

This was SPP’s second lecture in an Intensive Management Unit (IMU; the first occurred in summer 2015 at Monroe Correctional Complex). The IMU is like a prison inside a prison. There is a separate entrance to the unit and inmates inside are in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

Due to the high security risk posed by these inmates, staff must bring them into the classroom one at a time, and chain each student to their desk. The desks are so bulky, and the process so time-consuming, that the lecture class is limited to 6 student-inmates.

Seeing people limited this way can be shocking. There is a dark side to our society, and it is in places like the IMU where it is most evident.

However, the vast majority of these men will someday be released to outside communities, and need access to programs that can assist with rehabilitation. Due to the restrictive nature of the IMU, these inmates have very little contact with other people, and social skills can become further and further depleted. Educational programming like the Science and Sustainability Lecture Series may offer a safe and engaging group experience, and allow them to set their sights on a more positive future.

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A student in the IMU listens attentively to the presentation.

Despite the challenging setting, the lecture was fantastic. None of the inmates in attendance had ever heard of SPP before, and they were visibly interested in learning more. While the group started off quiet and reserved, all were attentive. By the end, a few had opened up to ask questions and contribute comments.

The students seemed to especially enjoy the pictures of WCC’s extensive gardens, and learning about what sustainable practices were happening at their prison. The more talkative of the bunch made it clear that they wanted more lectures in the future, and asked to be included on the list of attendees. We saw the IMU inmates’ desire to learn and grow. This group must not be forgotten.

Overall, December 9th was a special day. It marked a number of important firsts for WCC, and progress for the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series. The future looks bright for a lecture series to flourish in Shelton.

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Bringing nature inside the IMU, one step at a time.

WCCW Graduates first Roots class – photo gallery

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Last Friday, Liliana Caughman and I had honor of joining Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW)’s graduation ceremony for their first Roots of Success class. Sadly, we had to leave before the cake (five of them, and they spelled R-O-O-T-S), but we stayed long enough to soak up a whole lot of pride and happiness. Here is my photo gallery of the graduates and their audience.

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Graduate Lacinda Gadbaw was the first to stand and be recognized by her classmates.

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Surrounded by her fellow graduates, Roots of Success graduate Kandyce Benefield acknowledges applause.

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All three members of WCCW’s senior staff attended: seated in the back row, from the right, are Associate Superintendent David Flynn, Superintendent Dona Zavislan, and Associate Superintendent Felice Davis.

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Unlike other graduations I have attended, this one included an audience of invited peers; it was gratifying to see graduates recognized by their in-prison friends and family.

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SPP Sustainable Operations Manager Julie Vanneste was key to initiating Roots in Washington State prisons. At this celebration, she offered to the graduates her heart-felt congratulations and admiration.

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Roots instructors Renee Curtiss (center) and Teresa Settle (right) applaud their students. Both were certified as class instructors this past May. Paula Andrew, a champion of SPP programs for WCCW, sits next to them.

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Jeannette Murphy is a current Evergreen student, and has participated in several SPP programs. It was wonderful to see her become a Roots grad too! Ms. Murphy will work with SPP on the process for awarding Evergreen credit for the course.

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Roots graduate Darlene McClellan served as the class fact-checker. During the ceremony, she volunteered facts that illustrated the importance of environmental knowledge and solutions.

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Graduate Jasmine Van Guilder stands to be acknowledged by her peers and the assembled audience.

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And finally, a studious moment during a Roots class last month, when Green Track and Lecture Series Coordinators visited. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

From Poop to Employment: Jonathan Jones-Thomas shares his experience returning to prison as a guest lecturer

By Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas, Group Three Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator
Photos by Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator

Going back to prison to talk to inmates about job opportunities in the industry of wastewater treatment through SPP was indescribable. To return 1 ½ years after serving a 10-year sentence for assault… I told myself I would never go back. I didn’t know I would have the opportunity to go back to encourage others to walk my path, seek out healthy relationships and green job opportunities.

The author poses in the parking lot of Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

The author poses in the parking lot of Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

While incarcerated at the Monroe Correctional Complex (Monroe, WA), I was introduced to the wastewater industry by a “white man” by the name of Brian Funk. Being “black” myself, I didn’t expect to be introduced to education or employment opportunities by “white dudes”. Brian was unique in that he didn’t care about all the prison politics involved with “looking out for your own kind”. He was the type to “just do the right thing”. As the result, four years later, I type this at a computer working for a municipality in Snohomish County; I make good money, and Brian works next to me. He had no idea his small investment in the “black guy” would lead to a career in wastewater for the both of us, plus a plethora of opportunities to encourage others to do the same thing.

We were invited to speak at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (Aberdeen, WA) by Kristin Covey, a Brightwater employee. Brightwater is the upper echelon of wastewater treatment in the state of Washington. Kristin was invited by SPP to present at the prison and decided it would be best to bring two guys along that have been “in” and are now “out” in the industry. Before arriving, Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator, made clear that there was a growing interest in green jobs post prison. During the two hour drive, Brian and I formulated a plan to maximize our time with the offenders, knowing that there was a unique opportunity for them to hear about the pitfalls and challenges first hand.

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Kristin Covey, Brian Funk, and Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas, three experts in waste water treatment, co-presented to a mesmerized audience.

Walking into the prison was extremely stressful. In the back of my mind I knew I would be leaving in a matter of hours, but in my emotions…I waited to leave prison for 9 years 21 days and here I am inside again. But this time Brian and I have the reputation of SPP and wastewater industry professional, Kristin Covey, arriving and leaving with us. Walking through the breezeway, I looked at all the other fellow inmates thinking, “I wonder if they know I’m one of them.” Brian, having spent time at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, was greeted by a number of fellow inmates. It made me feel more comfortable knowing that they knew we too have walked that breezeway. By the time I got to the classroom I was ready to present. The fifty or so folks that showed up were ready to learn about the career opportunities in the wastewater industry. They didn’t know that I would bombard them with a lesson in life skills. Hopefully, Brian and I made it clear: you don’t get to get out of prison and maintain success in any industry, or life for that matter, without personal growth. Education is the key to a successful, sustainable transition back to society. It was awesome…

Brian and Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas learned about waste water treatment in-prison and went on to make it a career after release.

Brian Funk and Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas learned about waste water treatment while incarcerated, and they have turned their expertise into careers.

The Effects of Believing

by Cyril Walrond, Roots of Success Instructor and Master Trainer

“…All things are possible to him that believes.” Mark 9:23

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Cyril Walrond, Roots of Success instructor speaking at the class graduation ceremony in 2014. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Teaching the Roots of Success environmental literacy curriculum here at Stafford Creek has been not only a blessing to my life but has also been an enriching privilege and honor. To teach this 10-module course in a classroom without any correctional staff, administration, or outside volunteers to sponsor it is unprecedented in the Department of Corrections. Daily it is just me and my two co-workers Grady Mitchell and David Duhaime in our classroom teaching a class of 20-30 eager incarcerated students.

They told us it could not be done, but we are doing it. They doubted that there would be any interest, but we have become one of the most sought after programs among the men at the facility. They thought that the material might be too difficult or challenging, we said let’s challenge them. Now, nearly 2 1/2 years later, we have graduated 8 classes and over 200 students. How was this done?… Through believing!

It is only through believing that we can make a difference that we can then impact our students. It is only through instilling this belief in our students, that they have something to contribute to this world, that they began to care about how they have impacted their environment and how they will impact it into the future. Looking beyond their present pain and into the future possibilities.

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A look at over 50 students graduating from the Roots of Success program at Stafford Creek. Photo by Tiffany Webb.

My co-workers and I met frequently before our first class and agreed that if we did not believe in ourselves, this curriculum, and then each other, our students would never believe in us, this curriculum, or themselves. Now we are seeing the effects of our believing on the lives of not inmates, not convicts, not offenders, but on once-broken men who are now on a conquest to make a difference as they repair their lives.

Many of our students came into class with a warped self-image. Programmed to think that prison was inevitably predestined for their lives and that this is what they were being groomed for from the time they were conceived. We assure them these lies have conditioned them to the point of complacency, stagnation, and then finally acceptance. This place of acceptance is the realm in which many of them dwell, after having accepted their plight. However, they are made for more!

This is why one of my students, who we call Radio, really touched my heart when he personally thanked me at the conclusion of this class’s graduation. “Sir, thank you. You pushed me when I did not want to move. You challenged me when I felt like giving up. You believed in me when I did not believe in myself. Even when I thought my future was hopeless, you quoted to me several times Jeremiah 29:11.”

Radio is just one of many success stories that the 3 of us laugh and joke about when times get hard and our patience may be running thin with our students. (Trust me, anyone who has ever taught knows what I mean.) But we never get discouraged by the uphill battle. We press on and continue to believe that what we are accomplishing is much bigger than any one of us. Radio is a perfect example of how our believing in our students against all odds is giving hope to the hopeless.

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A Roots of Success class in action at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Sooner or later most of these men will be released. These men enter into our classroom one way and by the time that they leave their minds have been expanded beyond recognition. David, Grady, and I believe that what we are doing will transcend these walls, and society will begin to believe in the great potential held within.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11

These are the effects of believing! So let me ask, what are you believing for?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

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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!

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!

Steve-presenting

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