Category Archives: Prison Life

Larch’s First Turtle Release: A Technician’s Response

by Sadie Gilliom, SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator, and Mr. Goff, SPP Turtle Technician
Photos by Sadie Gilliom, except where noted

On May 18th, 2016, Larch Corrections Center released its first nine turtles into a pond in Klickitat County. These were state-listed endangered western pond turtles that received care at Larch. The turtles had been removed form the wild by biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife because they were suffering from a shell disease. They received acute treatment by the veterinarian at the Oregon Zoo and then transferred to Larch Corrections Center where two trained technicians cared for the turtles until they were ready to be released back into the wild.

Larch Turtle Ready for Release

A Larch turtle is ready for release.

Release Site

The release site was a lovely pond in Klickitat County.

The team—myself, Larch’s SPP Liaison Mr. Piliponis, Superintendent Oliver-Estes, the two technicians, Sergeant, and Mark Francis—drove 3 hours to a beautiful wetland. It was a sunny day with a clear view of Mt. Hood. We were greeted by WDFW biologist Stefanie Bergh, the founder of the Western Pond Turtle breeding program, Frank Slavins, and Oregon Zoo volunteers and staff. The Oregon Zoo was releasing the turtle hatchlings from their head start program on the same day.

Sgt. Mark Franklin Guarding the Turtles

Sgt. Mark Franklin guards the turtles.

Supt. Oliver-Estes Saying Farewell to a Turtle

Larch Superintendent Oliver-Estes says farewell to a turtle.

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill Learning About Turtle Anatomy

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill examined empty shells to learn more about turtle anatomy.

After meeting everyone, learning about the different tools the biologists use to study the turtles, and the technicians answering lots of questions about the Larch turtles from curious volunteers, we made our way down to the water’s edge. One by one all of the turtles were gently placed near the water. Then they trudged their way into the pond to swim off and join the others. This march to freedom was a moment to remember for all of the many players in the army to save the western pond turtle, but perhaps most memorable for the turtle technicians who are prepping for release themselves.

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill Teaching Zoo Volunteers About Westen Pond Turtles

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill taught young zoo volunteers about western pond turtles.

After the turtle release, Turtle Technician Mr. Joseph Goff shared his response to the experience:

“On Dec 19 2015 I became a caretaker. It was probably the last thing I thought I would be doing in my current situation. Caretaking is a humbling experience. It gives you a perspective on yourself, but also makes you focus on something or someone else. To be one of the reasons that these turtles survive is amazing. Also to see all the other people that have a part as well or are even just interested in knowing what they could do to to help. In so many ways this in something pure. To have so many people come together on one common ground doing what they can to help a turtle that has no means to help himself.

This program has opened my eyes—first to my future. I always have loved anything to do with nature or animals. I want to go back to school for it now. I want to volunteer and do it for a living. This program has also changed my perspective on people. Outside of family I guess I’ve lost my ability to put trust in or listen to others. Surrounding myself with people who always had ulterior motives or just take and pretend to care. It made me close-minded and hardened. In fact, a lot of people probably might have said I was one of those people that had ulterior motives that pretended to care.

Now I’m caring for these turtles who ironically are sick just like I was. They are enclosed and cared for. When their time is up and they are well they get to leave; if they get sick again they come back. I’m also involved with other caregivers that have helped me find a part of myself I had lost along the way. I believe this program has greatly changed my current life and if I continue with this same line of work or similar, I will be forever changed.”

Turtle Technician Mr. Goff Releasing a Turtle

Turtle Technician Mr. Goff Releasing a Turtle.

Watching the Turtles Swim Away

The technicians watched the turtles swim away.

All the Collaborators for the Turtle Program

Here is the Larch’s Turtle Program team. Photo by Zoo Volunteer.

All snaps! Airway Heights amazing firewood program

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

I have known about Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC)’s firewood program for years, but had no idea of the scale. I have never seen so much firewood.

On public lands such as parks and state forests, AHCC’s community crews remove trees which fell during storms, and cut trees which are crowding others or posing a hazard. Logs come back to the minimum security yard for splitting, stacking and curing. The prison partners with SNAP (Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners) to provide people of low income with no-cost firewood, to heat their homes. The winter of 2015-16, AHCC’s firewood program donated more than 660 cords of wood to Spokane County residents! 

half-the-firewood

This photo shows about *half* the firewood currently stacked at the Corrections Center.

chipper-meeting

A spontaneous meeting forms around the chipper: DOC staff, visiting compost experts, and a technician discuss the finer points of chipping waste wood. (The chips get turned into compost for the gardens, of course.)

firewood-2

Dang, those are good looking stacks!

firewood-splitter

A technician paused in his work with the splitter so I could take his photograph.

firewood-maul

The crew manually splits and stacks firewood, building their communities’ resources.

 

Photos from WCCW Work party

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

In late March, the prairie conservation nursery at Washington Corrections Center for women held a work party. Three SPP staff who had never before worked in an SPP nursery got to join the crew for a day: Sadie Gilliom, SPP turtle program coordinator, Liliana Caughman, lecture series coordinator, and me. It was a gorgeous, sunny spring day—hot, even, under the hoop house plastic.

Our gracious hosts were conservation nursery technicians Stephanie Boyle and Lerissa Iata, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott, and DOC’s Scott Skaggs. It was such fun to join their work, and help them catch up with the needs of sprouting seeds.

work-party,-spp-staff

SPP’s Liliana Caughman fills her seeding tray with Lomatium seeds while Sadie Gilliom and Carl Elliott fill racks with soil.

 

seeds

The Lomatium helped inspire the work party—it started sprouting in the fridge earlier than normal.

 

Conservation technicians Stephanie Boyle makes tags to label seed lots sown.

Conservation technicians Stephanie Boyle makes tags to label the seed lots sown.

 

Conservation technician Lerissa Iata checks on prairie species growing in the hoop house at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Conservation technician Lerissa Iata checks for weeds growing among prairie species.

 

killdeer-parent-words

Since the violet beds were built, a pair of killdeer has used them as a nesting site, and the birds are adored by many at the prison. As is typical for killdeer, they laid their eggs out in the open, and anytime a visitor comes near they put on a loud and vigorous display.

 

killdeer-eggs

Beyond the killdeer eggs, on the first truly warm day of spring, you can see many sun lovers out in the yard.

 

group-laughing

I asked the work party to pose for a group photo, and they were such cool subjects that we all cracked up.

 

Joslyn

I admire the balsamroot seedlings in the nurery. I love plants! Photo by Liliana Caughman.

 

Anywhere and everywhere we can, we bring nature inside prisons. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Anywhere and everywhere we can, we bring nature inside prisons.

Washington State Penitentiary Collaboration for the Birds!

By Kelli Bush, SPP Program Manager

It’s always nice to do positive projects. It helps us do our time with rewarding accomplishment knowing it helps the community and wildlife. ~Michael Feeney

We appreciate the opportunity to work with the public for environmental causes. ~Roy Townsend

Roy Townsend, Michael Feeney, Robert Beck, Robert Haugen, Luke Andrade, and Jose Ayala pose with the barn owl next boxes they build in the Sustainable Practices Lab. Photo by DOC staff.

Roy Townsend, Michael Feeney, Robert Beck, Robert Haugen, Luke Andrade, and Jose Ayala pose with the barn owl next boxes they build in the Sustainable Practices Lab. Photo by DOC staff.

Inmates working in the Sustainable Practices Lab at Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) are building owl boxes for the Blue Mountain Audubon. The boxes are installed in vineyards to help with rodent control—a strategy that will benefit viticulturists and owls alike. The boxes are designed to be suitable homes for barn owls. The Blue Mountain Audubon’s Owl Nest Box Project was inspired by the Hungry Owl Project, a non-profit dedicated to reducing the use of toxic rodenticides while promoting owl and wildlife conservation.

Rodenticides can be slow to poison rodents. Poisoned rodents are sluggish and debilitated—easy prey for owls, hawks, eagles, falcons and other wildlife. Consuming contaminated rodents can make predator animals ill and can even result in death.

Barn owls have voracious appetites. Installing barn owl boxes can be a cost effective way to manage a rodent problem without relying on rodenticides, and can support healthy wildlife. According the Hungry Owl website, a single Barn Owl family can consume 3,000 rodents during their 4 month breeding cycle. Barn owls can have multiple clutches a year, raising the total for possible consumed rodents to 6,000 – 9,000 a year per owl box!

Blue Mountain Audubon installs a barn owl nest box in a Walla Walla area vineyard.

Blue Mountain Audubon installs a barn owl nest box in a Walla Walla area vineyard.

According to WSP Corrections Specialist Chris McGill, the first round of owl boxes built by inmates was “a big hit” and they have received a request for 20 more boxes. This is an excellent example of a collaborative program to benefit people and wildlife. Great work WSP Sustainable Practices Lab!

Planning action for Clallam Bay

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

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

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

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

Officer-Buttram-makes-a-point

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

CBCC-vote

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

Culture change through water conservation

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

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

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

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

Beekeeping

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

We settled on these actions to bring beekeeping to CBCC:

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

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

 

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.

Fiona-freaking-out

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:

WSP-bee-kiss

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

looking-really-close

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.

octopus-among-students

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

Octopus-beauty

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! ;>))

Octopus-love

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

good-hand-jesture

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

student-portrait

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.

AHCC Roots of Success Graduation

By Dawnel Southwick, Airway Heights Corrections Center
Originally published in DOC Digest, a weekly update for WA DOC staff

AIRWAY HEIGHTS – Friday, December 18, 2015 at Airway Heights Correction Center, ten offenders successfully graduated from the Roots of Success program. This was the first class to be recognized at Airway Heights for the hard work and dedication for sustainable, environmental practices.

Roots graduates show their certificates alongside Superintendent Key and the staff sponsor for the program. Photo by DOC staff.

Roots graduates show their certificates alongside Superintendent Key and the staff sponsor for the program. Photo by DOC staff.

The Department of Corrections is committed to sustainable practices by implementing and promoting a culture of positive environmental awareness and conservancy. Areas in which prisons target sustainable practices are: Reducing environmental impacts; containing costs; offer employment, education, training, re-entry, and therapeutic opportunities for offenders; and to provide needed services to the community. Facilities establish their own Sustainability Action Plan to address efforts towards meeting objectives and goals outlined in the Department’s Sustainability Plan.

Roots of Success is an environmental literacy course created by Raquel Pinderhughes, PhD. Dr. Pinderhughes specifically designed this curriculum for offenders and it is taught in many prisons and juvenile detention centers across the Country, including Washington State. Currently, Roots of Success is being offered at Airway Heights, Clallam Bay, Coyote Ridge, Larch, Mission Creek Corrections for Women, Stafford Creek, Washington Corrections Center for Women, and Washington State Penitentiary.

The program is facilitated by offenders who have completed an instructor’s course, are committed to teaching, and are passionate about the material. Instructors encourage critical thinking and problem solving throughout the course, which creates an environment where inmates can brainstorm and thoroughly discuss the implementation of sustainable practices within correctional facilities. The information is presented in modules covering fundamentals of environmental literacy, water, waste, transportation, energy, building, health⁄food⁄agriculture, community organizing and leadership, financial literacy and social entrepreneurship, and application and practice.

While sustainable education and development are the obvious benefits of the course, it’s the focus on environmental justice and community advocacy that may have the most significant impact on these men and the neighborhoods they’ll eventually release to. Focusing on human rights and unity changes the student’s motivation from preserving non-renewable resources and reducing carbon footprints to considering the needs of those who are disproportionately affected by environment-related matters.

The byproducts are:

  • Strong sense of responsibility for one another and a profound increase in empathy for our communities
  • Meaningful and gainful employment once released
  • Environmental conscious living
  • A positive force for social change and environmental sustainability
  • Improve prison culture
  • Sense of purpose while incarcerated
  • Continuous sustainable efforts within the prison

Found within Roots of Success is a great potential to reduce negative prison culture, increase the sustainability of the facility, and motivate students to want to be a positive force for social change and help transform their community both in the institution and in society.

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.

Lililana-2

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.

chapel-students-happy

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.

Emily-in-IMU

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.

IMU-student

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.

nature-inside-the-IMU

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