Category Archives: Prison Life

December Butterfly Update

December Butterfly Update

By Inmate Butterfly Technicians at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

Editor’s note: Below is a message from our butterfly rearing technicians at MCCCW, who are currently raising a surrogate species in preparation for their work with the endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly.

During this holiday season, even though we miss our families, we are fortunate to be a part of this unique experience of rearing butterflies.  On a daily basis we clean, care for, observe, and interact with this delicate and necessary part of our environment.  We continue to learn and prepare for the crucial project ahead – captive rearing of the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly.

It is an amazing feeling to come out to the greenhouse every day and know that we are working toward making an important change for our environment.  We are extremely lucky to be at the start of this project.  We are anticipating the arrival of the Taylor’s checkerspot in February.

To donate to SPP and support the rearing of the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly in Washington state, click here.

 

 

French Film Crew Visits SPP!

By SPP Project Manager Kelli Bush

Filming Oregon spotted frog search

A French documentary crew recently visited Western Washington to film a new episode for their National Geographic series “Guardians of Nature”.  The episode will include segments featuring the Sustainable Prisons Project (SPP) Oregon Spotted Frog Program and riparian forest research conducted by SPP Co-Director Dr. Carri LeRoy.

 

The film crew spent an entire day with the SPP Oregon Spotted Frog Program team.  Filming began at Cedar Creek Correction Center in the morning.  SPP staff and inmates walked the crew through the daily tasks associated with caring for the endangered frogs.  Prison Superintendent Doug Cole shared his thoughts on the benefits of the program from a prison perspective.

SPP Co-Director Carri LeRoy and Project Manager Kelli Bush at West Rocky Prairie

The afternoon was spent at West Rocky Prairie in the greater Olympia area.  West Rocky Prairie is home to a wild population of Oregon spotted frogs.  Dr. Marc Hayes, senior biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, led the group to a wetland location where he netted two juveniles and one adult frog to show the film crew.  He explained how factors such as habitat loss and bull frog predation have led to the decline of the species and discussed current efforts to recover the native population.  The day concluded with summary discussion of the Sustainable Prisons Project and the many benefits of including incarcerated individuals as partners in conservation and sustainability work.

The film crew also spent a day with Dr. Carri LeRoy filming riparian and stream science research on the Hoh River. The Hoh River is a braided gravel stream channel fed from the glaciers of the Olympic Mountains and flowing through densely vegetated temperate rainforest and cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) gallery forests. Dr. LeRoy’s research on how the genetics of cottonwood trees can influence both other members of the ecological community associated with the trees and the ecosystem-level processes of riparian forests was the focus of the interview. Although it might seem impossible for something as small as a gene to have an effect on a whole ecosystem, there are many examples of the strong organizing power of genes. Genes can influence the insects that live in tree canopies, bird predation and nest building, deer browsing, soil organisms, nutrient cycling, carbon flux, water use and even adjacent stream communities and ecosystem processes. Dr. LeRoy’s “Genes-to-ecosystems” research involves examining the interactions between tree genes, forests and streams through leaf litter fall.

With the dynamic backdrop of ice-blue water and lush vegetation she demonstrated methods for measuring soil respiration (a combination of root respiration and microbial/insect respiration) at the base of a large cottonwood tree. In addition, she placed leaf litter bags of known tree genetics into a small tributary stream of the Hoh River and collected aquatic insects from the cobbly bottom. It was a gorgeous summer day spent in one of the most pristine river systems in Washington State.

The crew has featured beautiful locations all of the world, but this will be the first episode filmed in the US.  The show is primarily carried on stations throughout Europe.  We were thrilled to have the opportunity to share our work with “Guardians of Nature” and an audience on the other side of the planet.  The two segments will likely be available early spring 2012 and will be posted to our website as soon as they are available.

The Women’s Village: A Source of Change for Incarcerated Women

By Rowlanda Cawthon, Washington Department of Corrections,  East Team Leader, Communications

Associate Superintendent Margaret Gilbert, center, with members of the Women's Village at Washington Corrections Center for Women

Principles behind the mantra, “It takes a village to raise a child,” have been adopted by a group of dedicated offenders at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. Both offenders and staff at the prison wanted to foster a positive community environment and propel women to shift their thinking, so they formed the Women’s Village group to develop an approach that would change the prison culture.

With the cuts to offender programming, the women realized the need to tap existing resources to foster a sense of growth, collaboration and commitment. “The Women’s Village has been a great way for the women to really start thinking about their lives and how they can influence each other,” said Associate Superintendent Margaret Gilbert. “We’ve managed to get some staff on board and we are certain this project can change the culture of the prison.”

The mission of the Women’s Village is, “To encourage and foster an atmosphere of change by harnessing our unique strengths together as individuals and to create a new culture based on the pursuit of personal excellence.” The term Women’s Village was created by Psychology Associate Robert Walker and offenders developed the purpose, values and structure of the program. “The project offers the women a unique opportunity to share their personal experiences and knowledge to inspire each other to change and make positive contributions to the community in which they all live — the prison,” said Walker.

A village council serves the Women’s Village in an advisory and governing capacity to provide leadership and direction. There are ten women on the council who work incredibly hard to create a healthier prison atmosphere. Their criminal backgrounds vary as do their custody levels, but this doesn’t hinder their unified commitment.

Jeannette Murphy who has been incarcerated for 28 years firmly believes that the Women’s Village is a practical resource.  “One goal of the village is to keep the women busy,” said Murphy. “If we can help keep the women busy and assist them in finding their passion, we can address problems before they escalate and greatly reduce violence. We can work together to prevent another Jayme Biendl incident from occurring where we live.”

As the project evolved, the women unanimously agreed that they needed to identify their passions and create work opportunities around what genuinely made them happy. This resulted in the formation of nine sub–councils that serve as a means to get women engaged in something bigger than themselves.

  • Violence Reduction Team – Responsible for gauging the prison environment and identifying ways to reduce violence.
  • Health and Wellness Team – Facilitates wellness classes to include women’s health, nutrition and daily health routines.
  • Educational Team – Assist offenders with their educational needs and work with offenders who have learning disabilities to help them achieve their goals.
  • Environmental Team – Creates sustainable programs and get women involved in creating a sustainable environment.
  • Peer Support Team – Help offenders who need assistance in dealing with the realities of prison life. Peer mentors also work directly with mental health staff.
  • Morale Building Team – Bring back a sense of order and respect within the prison by promoting a positive change in the way women deal with their feelings.
  • Reentry Team – Facilitates programs that will help with the reentry process including but not limited to job readiness classes, resume workshops and dressing for success.
  • Spiritually Team – Gives women a chance to explore a variety of beliefs and become more in tune with their own, whatever they may be.
  • Family Support – Facilitates parenting groups, create positive ways to build on family relationships, and host workshops centered on family dynamics.

Each team is lead by a council member who has a sincere passion for the work required. Women interested in the Women’s Village must officially become a village member by participating in three orientations, two accountability circles, and committing to engage in two self–help groups or classes offered at the prison.

The orientations are lead by the council members and staff, and give an overview of the purpose and values of the Women’s Village. The women are also given an opportunity during orientation to develop personal goals that will enable them to create a vision of who they are and who they are becoming. Accountability circles provide the women with an opportunity to meet regularly to discuss issues or problems they are facing, to set goals to address these issues, and to brainstorm ways to accomplish the goals.

“We are a group of women who want more for ourselves and we want the women around us to feel the same way,” said Offender Renee Curtiss. “Having women believe in you and hold you accountable is the key to changing attitudes and behaviors, and that’s what we are all about.”

The values of the program are respect, honesty, compassion, diversity, self–empowerment, education and usefulness. These beliefs have been the driving forces behind the members’ ability to assist offenders in transitioning from intensive management unit to less restrictive custody, developing recycling and gardening programs, and simply getting women to be a source of change for each other within prison walls.

Blooming Inside the Walls

Blooming Inside the Walls

By Graduate Research Associate Carl Elliott from Stafford Creek Corrections Center

Surrounded by acres of Douglas-fir forest and behind razor wire security fences, a garden tended by the offenders at Stafford Creek Corrections Center is flourishing. Their efforts to cultivate food and flowers has altered the landscape and nourished the spirit of those involved.  These men asked me to provide a documentation of the garden for their families on the outside.  I thought that this service alone was worth providing, but I also feel others outside the prison fence should have the opportunity to see and hear about the garden.

The spring weather on the coast of Washington this year was unusually cool and cool nights persist through July. Night temperatures have rarely stayed above 50° F. The cool weather caused heat loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, and squash to languish.  However, crops such as broccoli, cabbage, peas, and carrots have exploded with growth. The offenders are gathering buckets full of carrots and peas to share with the prison kitchen.

All of the flower gardens were designed by the offenders. They paid special attention to creating habitat for insect pollinators. The plant families they cultivated in the pollinator garden were from the pink or catchfly family, the sunflower family, the pea family, and the mallow family. These plants provide nectar, pollen, and insect prey for beneficial insects.  This is important because the garden is surrounded by concrete which provides poor pollinator habitat.

The other flower gardens include a cutting garden and a native prairie garden. The flowers from the cutting garden are used to beautify the visitor room in the summer. This allows friends and family to see the fruits of the men’s labors and make for a beautiful reception for visitors. The native prairie plant garden overflows with species from the conservation nursery. By seeing the plants they are cultivating for restoration, the men can begin to learn plant families and plant community associations found on the prairies.

The whole garden sits amidst a sea of concrete. Originally, it was a turf covered turn-around for delivery trucks.  Staff grounds keeper, Jon Rydman, took the initiative to open up the space for the men to garden there two years ago.  After a great amount of initial effort to cut the sod, lay the irrigation, and form the beds, the garden was started.  Soil fertility has been improved by compost generated from prison kitchen waste. This unique in-vessel composting system is a pilot project coordinated by plant manager, Chris Idso.  Creating a flourishing garden in a Correction Center requires cooperation and coordination among staff.  The garden produces more than vegetables and flowers; it is also a place for education and change.

To donate to the SPP programs at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, click here.

 

SPP Research Associates Present Their Theses

By Graduate Research Associate Alicia LeDuc

Two of SPP’s former Graduate Research Associates have completed theses for the Master of Environmental Studies program at The Evergreen State College.  Liesl Plomski and Sarah Clarke selected topics related to the Sustainable Prisons Project. Both women have been integral parts of SPP since its early inception, working closely with inmates and DOC staff in two of Washington’s prisons.

Liesl Plomski presented her thesis regarding best practices in the rearing of endangered Oregon Spotted Frogs, drawing on her experience working with inmates at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Little Rock, Washington.  Plomski said she enjoyed working with inmates on the conservation efforts and that, “experiencing the importance of tuning people into a passion for positive development has definitely affected my subsequent career choice since finishing at Evergreen.” Plomski now lives in Portland, Oregon where she works mentoring at-risk youth.

Sarah Clarke completed her thesis on the impact of horticulture therapy and how working with living things affects the knowledge, behavior, and attitudes of inmates participating in the Sustainable Prisons Project.  Her work included data from four institutions working with  SPP.  Reflecting on her experience with inmates at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, Washington, Clarke said, “working with SPP has profoundly changed my life.  It has been rewarding on a personal level to work with inmates and see how interacting with nature benefits them.” One of SPP’s first Graduate Research Associates, Clarke said it was exciting to be part of a ground-breaking project from the very start. “It was a meaningful job that will be hard to replace,” she said.  Clarke now works at the Evergreen State College as a youth educator in the childcare center.

Both former SPP staff attested to the personal growth and professional rewards of working with the SPP.  Referring to her work lecture coordination and project evaluation efforts, Clarke said SPP enhanced her ability to work independently, manage time efficiently, work with a wide range of people, and change roles quickly. “I gained confidence to make judgments and take actions in new territory,” she said. Plomski agreed with Clarke’s observations, adding that working with SPP also improved her communication and analytical skills while working in a variety of different settings.

Most of all, the former Research Associates attested to the immense personal reward and satisfaction they felt when working with SPP.  Plomski said, “You come home at the end of the day and honestly feel like you’ve made society a little better, you actually did something.” For Clarke, it was, “really rewarding to witness the human healing that comes from working with nature.”  Both Plomski and Clarke have made contributions that continue to leave a lasting impact on the inmates, DOC staff, and community members they worked with over the course of their tenure with the Sustainable Prisons Project.

To view Sarah Clarke’s thesis, click here.

Liesl Plomski’s thesis is available here.

WCCW Winter Lecture Series a Success

 By Graduate Research Associate Alicia LeDuc

SPP’s winter Science and Sustainability Lecture Series at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) in Gig Harbor, Washington marked another successful season of scientific outreach, with over 50 WCCW offenders and staff attending the lectures.  The series focused on sustainable food practices and featured speakers from local non-profit agencies. 

 November:  Food Cooperatives and Cob Construction

Diana Pisco, The Olympia Food Co-Op

 Diana Pisco began the series with a presentation on food cooperatives and cob construction, a sustainable building method involving clay, straw, and basic tools. A former volunteer at WCCW, Pisco said she, “wanted to share what motivates me, to inspire these women about sustainability, local food production, and cobbing – something they could find very therapeutic as well as offer a skill they could use when they get out.”  Cob construction techniques stimulated lively conversation, with one offender sharing that she had built her house using this method. The offenders’ enthusiasm inspired Pisco to donate books to the prison’s library.

December: Edible Forest Gardens

Michael Kelly, Terra Commons

Michael Kelly introduced edible forest gardens, a landscaping technique that mimics a forest ecosystem and supports naturally high yields of produce.  WCCW horticulture students engaged Kelly in scientific conversation about the plants and techniques featured, comparing them with the prison’s program.  Kelly left offenders with printed resources about forest gardens, possible career paths, and ideas of how WCCW can implement sustainable practices in their gardens.

January: Organic Farming

Lydia Beth Leimbach, Left Foot Organics

Lydia Beth Leimbach spoke on organic farming.  Her experience on the farm with offender work crews from Cedar Creek Corrections Center encouraged her to partner with SPP for the second time this season. “I see the need for giving prisoners skills and education so that they have a chance to positively contribute to society when they get out,” she said.  WCCW has an on-site organic garden, and Leimbach’s presentation was directly applicable to the work many offenders are doing right now.  The topic also attracted two DOC staff members to attend the lecture series for the first time.

February: Native Plant Restoration

Ben Alexander and Amee Bahr, Sound Native Plants

Ben Alexander and Amee Bahr concluded the series with a discussion on restoration, described as an ecological act on behalf of the future with respect to the past. “We all have challenges in our lives, and we can move past them,” Bahr said. WCCW hopes to start a conservation  project that will provide offenders with experience in native plant horticulture.  Sharing SPP’s commitment to education, the Alexander and Bahr created a horticulture career development resource for the offenders. Alexander said he, “wanted to convey…that each individual can have an important positive impact even when working on a small local scale.”  He hopes the presentation will inspire offenders to make positive contributions to their community and environment when they leave prison.

Good News

By Graduate Research Associate Alicia LeDuc

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

KBTC Northwest Now: Click here to watch the episode

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

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

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

KCTS 9 Connects: Click here to watch the episode

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

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

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

Science Nation: Click here to watch and read

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

PBS News Hour, Oregon Public Broadcasting:

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

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

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

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

Inmates Restore Prairie, Make Video to Teach Others

By Graduate Research Associate Carl Elliott

The end of the growing season brings a lot of clean up and preparation for the Sustainable Prisons Project.  This year’s native prairie plants, raised in conjunction with offenders at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, are ready to be shipped off to their permanent homes. While some of the plants will be sent to Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), others are being distributed across various restoration sites around the south Puget Sound prairie landscape. Many are being planted to enhance habitat sites for Taylor’s (Whulge) checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) butterflies.

Delivery and installation of the 173,336 prairie plants began a few weeks ago and will continue through early spring 2011. For all the partners involved in this fantastic restoration project, this is a great accomplishment. Together we have increased the amount of plants produced by 70% compared to 2009.

Offenders at SCCC sort prairie plant seeds.

Reaching the delivery and planting phase  is the result of a lot of hard work. One of our biggest challenges has been working with wild collected seed and recalcitrant or difficult germination strategies. The various species of native prairie seeds are sown into yellow tubes or cells, then stored in larger trays. The total number of cells sown by the offenders was 338,485 with 2 to 6 seed sown per cell.  In the end, approximately 5o% of the cells contained plants.  This low fill rate may be caused by the quality of the seed material, the low viability rate of the seed, or the variability in the dormancy to germination process.  The prairie plant restoration project at Stafford Creek Corrections Center is an evolving process – there still a lot to learn about how to best grow these native prairie plants.  Our cooperators at The Nature Conservancy are working every season to improve seed quality through better collection, threshing, and processing techniques.

Offenders raise thousands of prairie plants each year.

Another factor in the low success rate per cell may be human error. Working with so many plants is just plain difficult sometimes. However, with time and experience the tasks become easier and more expertly accomplished. The current crew of offenders has worked diligently this summer to hone their skills and improve the efficiency of the nursery project while also improving morale and camaraderie. This effort shows in the number and quality of plants produced. They will also be able to help train and pass on these skills to offenders in the future, which will add to the success of the project.

Part of mastering any skill is the ability to teach it to others. The process of teaching a skill causes us to look more closely than we usually do to the mechanics of how we perform a task. Work conditions in a corrections center lead to frequent turn-over in the offender employees. Some sort of training tool was needed to get new offender employees up to speed and give them an understanding of the context and purpose of the nursery project.  The well-trained and skilled crew at SCCC recently helped create a video to serve as a training tool for new offenders working on the project.  Over the course of a few weeks, offenders practiced developing a script around their particular expertise in the production process. We decided to focus on five skills: 1) preparing soil and fertilizer in the cell trays, 2) sowing the seed of three species with differing seed sizes, 3) covering seed with soil or gravel grit, 4) record keeping  and 5) watering, weeding and cultivation skills.

Filming at Stafford Creek Corrections Center

The Center for Creative and Applied Media (C-CAM) at The Evergreen State College provided the production help and equipment for a day of filming at Stafford Creek. The students and staff from C-CAM did a fantastic job drawing out the script from the offenders, as well as setting up and framing the video.

Mixing the potting soil and adding the appropriate quantity of fertilizer.

Record keeping is vital to improving the long-term success of the project.

Applying the right amount of cover soil over the seed.

Preparing to water in newly sown seeds with a gentle spring rain of water.

The training video would not be complete without providing the context for why this nursery project exists. The nursery work and skills are good training for offenders, but another goal is to restore important prairie habitat for threatened and endangered species throughout the south Puget Sound. Some of the plants from SCCC were delivered to a prairie on Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM). During the first week of November, a hard-working field crew was on hand to plant out 30,000 plants to increase butterfly nectar sources and serve as larval hosts.

Filming at the Joint Base Lewis McChord Plant Out

Up close and personal with some of the plant out crew; each of the 30,000 goes in one at a time.

Filming the plant out crew with Kimi the prairie dog.

Luckily, nature provided us with a spectacular backdrop and view of the prairie lands at JBLM, perfect for filming a training video.  The students from C-CAM were able to practice filming a wide variety of shots.  The resulting video will be edited over the next few months, voice-overs added, and it will be finished in February. This will be a valuable training tool for new offenders joining the nursery crew during 2011.  As training improves and new discoveries are made each season, we look forward to improved native plant propagation operations.   Watch for the finished video on our web site February 2011.

Rod Gilbert of the Fish and Wildlife Division of Joint Base Lewis McCord explaining the importance of the plant production to prairie restoration for the film.

Cedar Creek’s Captive Crickets

By Graduate Research Associate Jill Cooper

This past spring, Cedar Creek Corrections Center and the Sustainable Prisons Project began experimenting with a new captive rearing project to raise crickets.  The goal of the project is to create a more sustainable, stable supply of food to meet the demand created by housing a growing population of endangered Oregon Spotted Frogs. Crickets are one of the largest expenses for the frog project. Cricket suppliers are located out of state.  Long-distance shipping complications can impact frog feeding schedules, and definitely increase the project’s carbon footprint. As a result of these issues, the offenders at CCCC decided they would try their hand at cricket husbandry and breeding.

Few organizations in Washington raise their own crickets. Most suppliers, including pet shops, purchase crickets from out of state breeders.  By locally-growing crickets for the Oregon Spotted Frog conservation project, SPP offenders and staff are taking another step toward creating a more sustainable, cost effective, and stable food supply.

Inmates and scientists are discovering best practices for rearing crickets.

The Project is also contributing to scientific knowledge, compiling best practices protocol for raising crickets in temperate climates through trial-and-error experimentation. While visiting with offenders to check on how things have progressed, SPP Research Associate Jill Cooper was impressed to see how much the offenders had learned through observation and experience, in such a short amount of time. One inmate explained to her how the current batch of “breeders” that were delivered to the prison, “aren’t really the age which the cricket farm said they are.”  He pointed to the “ovipositor” or egg-depositing tube noting that they were obviously under developed and not ready to lay eggs yet.  Crickets chirp to indicate when they are ready to breed.  The inmate is considering starting his own cricket farm when he is released to offer a more sustainable source of crickets to customers here in the northwest.

Training Officer Ron Gagliardo of Amphibian Ark recently made a visit to CCCC to advise inmates and staff on the cricket rearing operation.  Previously from the Atlanta area, Ron has extensive experience with frog and cricket rearing.  He was a tremendous resource.  The inmates were able to ask him many questions and his input will undoubtedly improve upon the initial success of the cricket operation.

There have been many bumps along the way, but things have been looking up for the cricket operation.  Offenders are able to raise crickets to help supplement the frog’s diet, and have learned much in the process. While the cricket project can not yet support all the food needs, we estimate that the current operation will eventually support at least half of the crickets needed to feed about 200 frogs.

Farewell Frogs!

By Graduate Research Associate Jill Cooper

Releasing frogs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

It has been another successful season rearing Oregon Spotted Frogs at Cedar Creek Correction Center.  A total of 1,346 were released into a wetland site on Joint-Base Lewis-McChord.  The four rearing institutions (Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Northwest Trek, and Cedar Creek Corrections Center) came together to release this year’s batch of frogs into the wild; a collaborative effort to stabilize the native populations.

The Sustainable Prisons Project has been working with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Cedar Creek Correction Center (CCCC) to raise endangered Oregon Spotted Frogs since 2009. CCCC boasts having the largest frogs of any participating rearing institution, with100% of this year’s frogs large enough for release into the wild.

CCCC’s rearing success can be attributed to the amount of time and attention the offenders are able to give the frogs.  The offenders form genuine bonds with the frogs; some are given names, like “Lefty” or “NASCAR.”  The few deceased frogs have been placed in an offender-created “frog cemetery,” with hand-made gravestones.  One of the inmates patiently waits with his hand in the frog pond, and frogs will often come sit in his hand to be pet.

Cedar Creek Frog Maintenance

The day of the release, the frogs were loaded into containers and driven north to Joint-Base Lewis-McChord and their new home. CCCC is a minimum security pre-release facility, sometimes referred to as “camp,” where offenders are sent with minimal time remaining on their sentence. For participating offenders, the release of the frogs in part symbolizes their own impending release back into society.

Superintendent Doug Cole and Classification Counselor Marko Anderson of CCCC along with SPP Student Research Associates Liesl Plomski and Jill Cooper had the opportunity to release some of the frogs.  “It was a sight to see all 1,346 frogs hop into the water and instantly disappear with their well camouflaged bodies,” said Cooper.

Red coloration indicates healthy growth

Each frog has a micro-chip and will be tracked by volunteers who regularly visit the wetlands to conduct research, using special wands that detect the frogs’ signals.

At the conclusion of the release, 29 of the frog “runts” from other institutions were taken back to CCCC because they were not large enough to be released.  These frogs will be nurtured during the winter and released in the spring.  One offender says that this new batch of frogs is, “more skittish than the last;” hardly any of the frogs come sit in his hand.  Nevertheless, they are rapidly growing.  In just the past few weeks, the frogs have gained weight and are already beginning to show some red coloration. With another successful year of frog-rearing logged, the future looks bright for the Cedar Creek frog team.