Category Archives: Sustainable Operations

Coyote Ridge Corrections Center looks gray, but it’s the “greenest” prison in the nation!

Text and photos by Bethany Shepler, SPP Green Track Coordinator

At first glance, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) does not look very green, but superficial looks can be deceiving; it’s sustainable programming and practices are the most impressive of any correctional facility. CRCC’s main campus is LEED Gold certified, the first prison in the world to hold this accomplishment! (Check out this article about CRCC’s sustainable standard.)

At first glance Coyote Ridge looks very gray. This was especially true when I visited in overcast, rainy weather.

I visited the prison in late November, and had the chance to tour the programs and meet with partners. The sustainable practices of the facility were highly impressive, but even more impressive were the staff who work there and the inmates who have dedicated their lives to learning, education, and environmental activism. I met with the instructors for Roots of Success and we talked about the program, the facility’s annual Environmental Awareness Day, and the many hopes they have for advancing sustainability programming at Coyote Ridge.

I am continually impressed by the people I get to work with, and the inmates and liaisons at Coyote Ridge are exemplary program representatives. I asked what could be done to improve their program and the inmates unanimously agreed “more books and readings about the environment, the sciences, sustainability, environmental activism, and any other subject along those lines.” They want to learn as much as they can and are utilizing every resource they have access to.

Coyote Ridge has developed a “Sustainability Passport” to track and recognize participation. As incarcerated individuals complete a program, they get a stamp on their “passport.” A regular offering is the prison’s Sustainability Lecture Series, similar to the Environmental Workshop Series at two prisons west of the Cascades. They bring in outside experts to deliver lectures and seminars on environmental issues and sustainability. Guests have come from organizations like the Department of Ecology, the local beekeeping association, and experts on the Hanford Site.

This is Bentley. He is a handsome, energetic, lab mix puppy that was brought to the prison with the rest of his litter to be raised and trained by inmate dog handlers. He and his litter-mates have already been adopted, and some by staff members at the prison. Many staff members adopt shelter dogs that the inmates train because they get to know and love the dogs during their time at the facility.

Coyote Ridge hosts a beautiful, thriving dog program. Incarcerated individuals have played a greater leadership role in this program compared to other prison pet programs we know. The dogs that come to the facility are from Benton Franklin Humane Society and Adam County Pet Rescue. They come to the prison because the local shelter doesn’t have the space or time to care for the dogs; because it’s a pregnant dog that can receive inmate handlers’ attention 24 hours a day; or because the animal has been abused and needs extra-gentle care and attention to learn to trust people again. The dogs work with a variety of trainers while they’re at the facility so that they learn to listen and be comfortable around different people.

This is Shannon Meyer. He is one of the inmate dog handlers at CRCC and this was the current dog he’s working with, Rocky. When Rocky came to the prison he wouldn’t let anyone touch him and would get aggressive easily. Mr. Meyer has been working with Rocky for several weeks to get him to trust people and is pleased with his progress. Rocky’s red bandanna signals that he may not respond well to being pet or held by anyone other than his handler, but he happily let me pet him – proof of his progress.

The handlers at CRCC look like they love what they do and see the value in their work with the dogs. One of the handlers, Mr. Meyer, had this to say: “When I got here (in prison) it was just about doing my time, but now, with my dog, everything is about taking care of him and my life is about him.”

I also met these 8-day old puppies who were born in the prison. Their mother came to prison pregnant and gave birth to her puppies in the handler’s cell. Her handler, Mr. Archibald, will care for her and her puppies until they are ready and able to be adopted.

On all fronts, I was impressed by the greenness of programming and attitudes at the prison. Keep up the excellent work, Coyote Ridge!

CRCC during the summer. The picture is looking at some of the units and the courtyard with a rock garden in the center. The gardens at CRCC all feature native plants and rock designs. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

 

Liaisons are our Roots for Success

Text and photos (except where noted) by Bethany Shepler, SPP Green Track Coordinator

A Roots of Success graduate at CRCC shows his appreciation for the program. Photo by DOC staff.

Roots of Success (Roots) is an environmental education program that promotes awareness of environmental issues, problems and solutions, personally, locally, regionally, and globally. Roots of Success is offered by the Sustainability in Prisons Project in 10 of Washington State’s prisons. The program is championed by incarcerated instructors and students, and more than 1,200 people have graduated since the program began in 2013.

The unsung heroes of Roots of Success are the DOC staff members who serve as program sponsors, or “Roots Liaisons”. The program wouldn’t be possible if not for the incredible individuals that work with us within facilities. Even though I can’t highlight all of them, I want to recognize a few extraordinary people who make Roots of Success possible: Chris McGill at WSP, Gena Brock and CRCC, and Kelly Peterson at SCCC.

The Roots Liaisons are in charge of finding and scheduling the classroom, ensuring secure and functional multimedia equipment, responding to needs of instructors and students, and program reporting. This program would not be possible without the Liaisons’ determination and hard work.

Chris McGill is the Roots Liaison at Washington State Penitentiary (WSP). He manages the amazing Sustainable Practices Lab, where Roots serves as a prerequisite for jobs in the lab’s shops. Chris first got involved with sustainable programming when he and small team of inmates decided to transform an empty space at the prison into a garden.

Gena Brock is Roots Liaison for Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC); in the photo above, she poses with the Roots of Success Instructors at the prison. As the Roots Liaison, she has provided steadfast program support and is always thinking of ways to improve the program at CRCC.

Kelly Peterson at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) is a relative newcomer to the Roots program. Kelly recently took on the role of sustainability liaison at SCCC, and is the point of contact for everything from beekeeping to gardening to the aquaponic “EVM” nursery. SCCC’s Roots program has been going strong since 2013, and we fully trust her to continue that success. She is dedicated, productive, and positive—pretty much everything you would want in a partner!

Climate Change Symposium in Prison: Incarcerated people creating solutions

Text by Erin Lynam, Workshop Series Coordinator
Photos by Ricky Osborne

On October 18th at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, we held the first ever Climate Change Symposium in a prison. The five hour event brought together 91 environmental students, eight SPP-Evergreen staff members, five guest speakers, and five DOC staff members.

First up was Mike Burnham from Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) who gave a presentation about region-wide planning and action for climate change resilience. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

 

TRPC asked participants to break into small groups to play their board game, Resilience Road. Each group collectively selected and prioritized responses to a climate change challenge for a hypothetical community. This small group included SPP Co-Director Kelli Bush. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

The exchange of ideas and insights was a highlights of the symposium. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Students had the chance to show just how knowledgeable they are regarding environmental issues. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

But the game wasn’t all work, it was fun too! Photo by Ricky Osborne.

TRPC graciously donated a copy of Resilience Road to Stafford Creek Corrections Center so that students can continue to play and inform their work as environmental stewards. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

During the symposium students were given an opportunity to mingle and engage with guest speakers and SPP staff about climate change. Here they talk to SPP’s former Turtle Program Coordinator Sadie Gilliam. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Next up was incarcerated environmentalist and longtime SPP participant, Toby Erhart. He shared what climate change means to him and what actions he’s taking to address it. He is an active member in the conservation nursery program, beekeeping, and the composting program at SCCC. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

After staff, guests, and students had a lively discussion over a shared lunch, members of Got Green gave a presentation. Johnny Mao, Johnny Fikru, and James Williams of Got Green presented on Got Green’s social and environmental justice work in low income and communities of color. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

During Got Green’s presentation, James Williams stated that even though the students may be apart from their community, they were not forgotten and he considered them part of his community. This acknowledgement of oneness is an incredibly rare moment in the prison environment and was moving to witness. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

To wrap up the symposium and reflect on everything they learned, SPP invited the students to share what they found most important and what steps to take next. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

To have the opportunity to spend the day learning alongside individuals who are emphatically committed to keeping our planet healthy was inspiring. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prison Shares Earthworm Wealth with Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Text and photos by Sadie Gilliom, current SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator and previous Northwest Trek employee

The worm bin built for Northwest Trek with the team who created it.

Inside the three rows of razor wire, Monroe Correctional Complex houses more than incarcerated people. A partnership between an incarcerated individual and a correctional staff member initiated a waste reduction program that now is home for millions of thriving earthworms. Under the supervision of an officer, and with support from SPP-Evergreen, Nick Hackney—now a world renowned worm expert—and his team grew 200 worms into more than 10 million that process up to 40,000 lbs of food waste per month! The worm farm’s success has inspired addition of other programs; all are housed within a larger Sustainable Practices Lab. All the lab’s program have the benefit of coordination and oversite provided by Officer Jeff Swan.

This program has been around for over 6 years now, and the worm technicians have been spreading their worm wealth.  Most recently, the crew came built a heated outdoor worm bin for Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (Trek).  Trek plans to use the worm bin as a public engagement tool and will feed the worms with the scraps from the staff lunchroom.

Mr. Hackney shows Rachael Mueller how to use Trek’s new worm bin.

I had the privilege of coordinating the delivery and escorting a member of Trek’s conservation team, Rachael Mueller, up to Monroe for a tour and pick up of the finished product. I was present as two unlikely sustainability partners came together. It was a beautiful moment!

Mr. Juan shows how they use Bokashi bran to ferment meat before feeding it to the worms.

A few of the vermiculture techs helped load the bin into the truck.

Vermiculture Tech’s, Sadie Gilliom and Rachael Mueller pose at the end of the worm program tour.

The worm team at Monroe gave Trek a well-designed worm bin, shared their knowledge on how to maintain it and gave them a sample of black soldier fly larvae from a pilot program to see if they would want to use them as animal feed. Northwest Trek will be sharing the knowledge and story of the worm team’s impact on sustainability practices with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. I would call that a great partnership!

Mr. Hackney and Rachael Mueller shake hands after the exchange

Thank you to Northwest Trek—especially the Conservation and Education Curator Jessica Moore—for being open to the idea. A big thank to the Monroe worm team and Officer Swan for donating their knowledge and a beautiful worm bin to Trek and their generations of visitors to come!

Evergreen’s President for Climate Action

Letter from Higher Education Leaders on Climate Action

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager

Late last week, Evergreen’s President George Bridges joined hundreds of his colleagues nationwide in signing the Letter from Higher Education Leaders on Climate Action to president-elect Trump and members of Congress. In the letter, they urge the government to support:

1. Participation in the Paris Agreement, with the resulting national carbon reduction and clean energy targets, to protect the health of our current communities and our future generations.

2. Research in our academic institutions and in federal agencies to ensure that our national climate, energy, and security policies are based on leading scientific and technical knowledge.

3. Investments in the low carbon economy as part of a resilient infrastructure to ensure the country can adapt to changing climate hazards. These investments will also help grow American jobs and businesses. (Full text available here.)

In his associated statement to the Evergreen community, George said:

Our study and practice of environmental stewardship are deeply linked to our commitment to addressing global concerns about the health and welfare of all communities. Evergreen also assumes that understanding and solving environmental challenges such as climate change or food security requires firm grounding in research in the natural and life sciences. Equally important is understanding the role that social, political and economic forces play in causing these challenges and remedying them fully and effectively. Advancing knowledge about the challenges is critical. (Full text shown below.)

At SPP, we are tremendously grateful that the college’s president has taken a stand on what may be the most confounding, complex, and critical challenge yet faced by humankind. Thank you, George!

Here is George serving the campus community at the 2nd annual Clams with George free lunch; he loves to treat us! Photo from Evergreen archives.

Accountability: Brainstorming article

By Julian Reyes, Roots of Success Instructor, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

Reyes-Roots-Instructor

Julian Reyes speaks at a Roots of Success graduation event. Photo by DOC staff.

The planet is what provides us with food, cycles our water, filters our air, and shields us from harmful atmospheric gases. The planet is where we thrive. How can something so intricate to the survival of human life becomes the bearer of such disregard and disdain.

People must learn the practice of sustainability. The ability to keep up a practice or habit that is beneficial for many is something important for everyone. Being in prison allows people the opportunity to take a moment to examine the world and its practices. Prison is a closed environment where one small thing can affect everyone, and only a handful of corporate entities provide the prison system with the necessities for survival.

Corporate sponsorship has slowly taken over the global market place. No longer can society rely on the family run organizations or businesses. Once ownership becomes nameless and faceless, ownership becomes emotionless. The motivation for profit becomes absolute.

Corporations employ practices that cause harm to what they come into contact with because of cost cutting measures that cut too many corners which are environmentally friendly. All of the damage causes harm to the earth, deterioration to the ozone, while also polluting the water table.

Heavily toxic chemicals are in use in a variety of occupations, and many of these chemicals are rarely disposed of properly. The places corporations establish, like mines and factories, soon become danger zones and areas of contamination. People must quickly realize that they only are harming themselves.

CRCC-Roots-graduation-8-23-16

At a graduation ceremony, Roots of Success students pose with their certificates and instructors. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Creating a sustainable lifestyle culture is paramount, and Roots of Success is teaching people a new way to think. Being aware of the environmental injustice is the first step to finding a solution. The second step is continuing to hold people accountable for their actions.

Instructor-Training.Reyes

Roots of Success Instructor Julian Reyes and Master Instructor Eugene Youngblood. Photo by DOC staff.

Allowing corporate interest to shape societies attitude of more, more, more must stop. Consumerism, instant gratification, and newer is better are the ideals being professed by these corporate entities.

Bigger is not always better. New is not always the answer. American society has become a throw away and waste it culture, and Roots of Success must continue to try to open the eyes of the people.  

Sustainability & Justice

by Jonathan Bolden, Roots of Success Instructor, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center
Photos by DOC staff

Jonathan Bolden was certified as a Roots of Success instructor in May, 2015. Since then, he has co-taught the environmental curriculum six times. Photo by DOC staff.by Jonathan Bolden, Roots of Success Instructor, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

Jonathan Bolden was certified as a Roots of Success instructor in May, 2015. Since then, he has co-taught the environmental curriculum six times.

Too often we assume that the concept of sustainability is exclusive to the realm of environmental justice. That somehow the idea of conserving natural resources, protecting endangered species and habitats, or reducing our energy consumption will automatically result in a healed earth.

This assumption overlooks the most important factor in actually employing sustainability approaches and practices to meet the growing demands of environmental justice—the human being.

Transforming our earth requires the transformation of people, more specifically, the transformation of people’s attitudes and behavior, as it relates to the environment. The greatest potential and need for this change to occur exists within prisons.

Society has condemned and confined prisoners to prison because of their unsustainable (criminal) behavior. Their behavior has wreaked havoc and devastation within communities similar to the unsustainable human behavior that has led to the environmental crises we currently face. In this sense, the sustainability concept not only applies to radically improving our relationship with the earth and environment but also in our effort to redeem, reform, and rehab[ilitate] prisoners.

Einstein once said that the current dilemmas we face could not be solved at the same intellectual level in which they were created. We are going to have to revolutionize our thinking in how we establish responsible environmental and criminal justice practices. What better way to achieve this goal than to incorporate the solution of one with the other.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) and Roots of Success program (Roots) puts this wisdom of Einstein into practice. These types of programs provide prisoners with the necessary skills and experience to successfully reintegrate into society and find employment in the green economy.

Roots instructors Julian Reyes, Jonathan Bolden, and Eugene Youngblood pose at a graduation event.

Roots instructors Julian Reyes, Jonathan Bolden, and Eugene Youngblood pose at a graduation event.

At Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC), SPP creates programs and opportunities for prisoners to engage in sustainability activities. For instance, the sagebrush project allows prisoners to acquire experience with the native plants of Washington State. The sagebrush plays an essential role in the eastern Washington landscape, as it provides numerous species with food and shelter. If the sagebrush were to become threatened or even extinct, this would have serious implications for the Washington State wildlife.

Sagebrush-and-tattoo-arm

A technician in the sagebrush program at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center checks the health of a plant plug. Photo by Jeff Clark, Bureau of Land Management.

In addition, the Roots course empowers prisoners with its environmental literacy curriculum. While it builds environmental understanding, it also focuses on building the individual student. This means students are challenged to assess their attitude and behavior toward the environment and by extension their attitude and behavior toward society. By introducing the green economy and green jobs to students, Roots highlights the opportunity for students to become gainfully employed and be a veritable solution to our environmental problems.

Ultimately, what we do today determines our tomorrow. SPP and Roots are planting seeds that are sure to bear the fruit of sustainability and justice. So let us take a cue from these programs and dig our hands into the dirt to cultivate a better future.

Saving Resources at Airway Heights Corrections Center

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager

Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) is located in eastern Washington, far from the environmental activism of the Puget Sound. Yet, the prison has become a statewide leader for conserving and recycling resources.  

AHCC is a model for energy conservation. Facility staff regularly check and restore their equipment, fixing it before it breaks. The approach improves performance and life expectancy, and staves off epic fails. By practicing preventative maintenance, they have become a model of efficiency.

garbageThe prison has also set the standard for sorting waste. Without any fancy equipment, they have figured out how to turn the waste stream into valuable commodities. They sort their waste at the source, or “up stream.” Every day, porters (we call them waste stream technicians) sort the waste stream into dedicated cans, and the results are impressive. Nearly everything is reclaimed or recycled; all that’s left is a tiny can of mixed-materials (see photo).

laughing-about-garbage

A porter (waste stream technician), AHCC’s Kraig Witt, and Sustainable Operations Manager Julie Vanneste discuss that it’s hard to know what “garbage” means anymore.

In the many gardens, staff and inmates have transformed hardpan into thriving soil with compost. They use no fertilizers or pesticides, and make their compost in small batches on site. The result is gorgeous, healthy produce.

An inmate gardener harvests high quality radishes outside his living unit. Each living unit has its own garden, and each has its own personality. The three gardeners who were tending this one with enormous enthusiasm.

An gardener harvests radishes outside his living unit.

Each living unit has its own garden, and each garden has its own personality, shaped by the gardeners who tend it. The three gardeners I met showed enormous enthusiasm for the work. They turned 1 strawberry plant into 1,200. They gleaned tomato and cantaloupe seeds from cafeteria food. They figured out how to reclaim seeds from everything they grow. They can boast a truly closed-loop system!

garlic-farmer

This Horticulture Porter said that adding masses of compost transformed this area from an unproductive low spot to the gorgeous plantings of garlic there now.

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.