Tag Archives: Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

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!

SPP-model programs: Possibilities for Japan

Text and photos by Atsuko Otsuka, freelance journalist and author, consultant for the Guide Dog Puppy-Raising Program and the Horse Program at Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Program Center in Japan

Dog handlers of Freedom Tails at Stafford Creek Corrections Center pose for a photo.

I’ve been working with the Prison Pet Partnership at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) for years, and I’ve become fascinated with the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP). I’ve written several books about the benefits of animal programs in correctional facilities, and I’ve successfully worked with the Japanese Ministry of Justice to establish the first dog programs in Japanese correctional facilities. My goal is to find ways to create more programs in Japan similar to those of SPP. I strongly believe that they offer a way to improve our society, the lives of our incarcerated populations, and the planet.

Technicians at the Sustainable Practice Lab at Monroe Correctional Complex proudly point to the “Thank you” poster from the recipients.

A nursing mother cat and her kittens are all cared for in the handler’s cell at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of visiting many correctional facilities in Washington where SPP is an important part of their programming and culture. My journey began with WCCW, Cedar Creek and Larch Corrections Centers. This year, I added visits to Mission Creek, Stafford Creek, Airway Heights and Monroe Correctional Complex. During these visits, I saw many wonderful programs that are expanding the worlds of the people incarcerated there, by giving them both environmental education and the opportunity to become better stewards of the earth. I was particularly impressed that all of the SPP programs I saw were designed to help their participants gain self-esteem and redemption by creating a way for them to give back to society. The passion and pride expressed by the program participants that I met was not only inspiring, but infectious.

Learn more about Atsuko and the programs at Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Program Center.

Students stop at the garden after attending a Seeds to Supper class at Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

Celebrating another flight season for butterfly technicians

Text and photos by Keegan Curry, SPP Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Program Coordinator

(Left to right) Jessica Stevens, Nicole Alexander, Cynthia Fetterly (seated), Susan Christopher, and Alexis Coleman pose in front of their original artwork. Ms. Stevens and Ms. Christopher painted this banner to welcome Girl Scouts Beyond Bars to the butterfly lab for a day of activities, including a unique Taylor’s checkerspot merit badge designed by Ms. Alexander.

Inmates at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) continue to amaze us. Each year, a group of dedicated technicians raise and release thousands of federally-endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies. Not only do these technicians follow rigorous laboratory protocols, they develop their own personal expertise and remain adaptive to the myriad challenges of animal husbandry.

This year we were lucky to have three returning technicians on the team. Jessica Stevens, Cynthia Fetterly, and Susan Christopher have completed multiple seasons in the butterfly lab and they have an in-depth understanding of each life stage. Their experience has taught them how to read these animals down to the finest details, like determining the “instar” of a growing caterpillar or predicting how the weather might influence adult mating behavior. Returning technicians play a crucial role, and it is equally important to recruit new participants. This winter we welcomed Nicole Alexander and Alexis Coleman to the butterfly crew and they began their crash course in Taylor’s checkerspot rearing. By the end of the flight season, Ms. Alexander and Ms. Coleman were well-versed in everything from pupation to egg collection!

Thanks to all of the staff from WA Department of Corrections and MCCCW who work tirelessly to coordinate this program. And of course, we wouldn’t be here without support from the Oregon Zoo and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. It means a lot to have zookeepers and biologists coming to MCCCW and giving incarcerated technicians the confidence to work with this fragile and beautiful species.

Take a look at these photo highlights from the past few months.

Taylor’s checkerspot caterpillars in their newly-formed cocoons. They remain in this state for up to three weeks and then emerge as butterflies (also known as “eclosion”).

(Left to right) Cynthia Fetterly, Susan Christopher, and Jessica Stevens inspect a pupa to see if it is ready to eclose.

After wiggling free of their cocoons, two adult butterflies dry their wings. It can take several hours after eclosion before they are ready to fly.

Cynthia Fetterly searches for butterfly eggs. She has to check every inch of the plant and down in the rocks at its base. It’s a tedious but crucial task.

This female just laid a fresh cluster of eggs (the tiny yellow orbs on the leaf to her left).

(Left to right) Susan Christopher teaches new technicians Alexis Coleman and Nicole Alexander how to safely handle adult checkerspots. Technicians inspect the size and shape of the abdomen to determine whether butterflies are male or female.

All adult checkerspots must be weighed and measured. Notice how this technician grasps the butterfly with the sides of her fingers, avoiding harm to its wings.

Jessica Stevens keeps a watchful eye over adult breeding tents.

Mottled sunlight and a warm breeze are a checkerspot’s ideal conditions.

The adult life stage is a critical period in the captive rearing program. Technicians conduct dozens of breeding introductions each day, keeping track of each individual’s “matriline” in order to maintain genetic diversity.

Breeding Taylor’s checkerspot takes patience. After hours of waiting and adjusting environmental conditions, these two finally decided to mate.

Susan Christopher leads a tour of the butterfly lab for a documentary crew from PBS Nature. Photo by Kelli Bush.

PBS Nature gathers footage of Susan Christopher and Nicole Alexander double-checking their breeding data. Photo by Kelli Bush.

It’s hard to deny the charm of the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. We extend our gratitude to the technicians at MCCCW who continue to prove that incarcerated people can make a difference in conserving biodiversity.

 

 

 

Building the pool of environmental instructors for the women’s prisons

Text by Emily Passarelli, SPP Green Track Coordinator, and Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager
Photos by Ricky Osborne

On April 28th, Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes trained and certified 22 women at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) as Roots of Success Instructors. The training was a great success, and we are pleased to have reinforced the pool of women who can teach the curriculum—that’s the only way to meet the demand! We hear from both WA Corrections staff and Roots of Success graduates that this program is highly regarded: it creates respectful relationships within the prison community, and it’s an effective tool for building skills for life and work. Those testimonials line up with results from program surveys that show increased knowledge and skills in multiple ways.

Congratulations to the instructors and a special thanks to Raquel and Chad Flores from Roots of Success, Vicki York and Paula Andrew from WCCW, Dagoberto Cabrera from MCCCW, and all DOC staff who helped make this training possible! We can’t wait to see what the newly certified instructors accomplish! Please enjoy our  photo gallery of the training.

Roots instructors are asked to think about difficult questions and find solutions together. They received guidance on how to instruct when the content is difficult and complex issues, and how to encourage full engagement and critical thinking from every student and themselves. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

The instructor candidates were encouraged to ask lots of questions. Dr. Pinderhughes found this group to be impressively engaged and thoughtful. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

One instructor candidate shares her thoughts and experiences as Raquel Pinderhughes listens. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

The instructor candidates were selected by WCCW and MCCCW staff members. They were picked because of their dedication to environmental issues and their desire to learn and do more. Congrats to the new instructors for their hard work and dedication! Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Vicki York, a WCCW staff superstar, originally attended the class just to observe. However, she found herself so engaged that she herself earned a instructor certificate too! Go Vicki! Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Raquel Pinderhughes came from San Francisco to train the new WCCW and MCCCW instructors. Her tireless effort and enthusiasm is an inspiration. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

We are so lucky to have an engaged and thoughtful group of new Roots instructors. Both Roots of Success and SPP can’t wait to hear about the ideas and discussions that come from the classes these women will teach. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taylor’s checkerspot wake up and release

Text and photos by Keegan Curry, SPP Butterfly Program Coordinator

Washington’s winter was exceptionally cold and wet this year, posing unique challenges for SPP’s Taylor’s checkerspot rearing program. After a deceptive warm spell, the butterfly technicians at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) brought the caterpillars out of winter diapause only to find that spring was yet to come! Temperatures plummeted and constant rainfall postponed the larval release that typically follows within a few weeks of wake up. But in spite of this delay, technicians patiently fed and nurtured over 3,000 hungry caterpillars as we waited for weather to improve.

(Left to right) Jessica Stevens, Cynthia Fetterly, and Susan Christopher rest after a long day of counting, sorting, and feeding caterpillars. The shelves behind them house over 3,000 Taylor’s checkerspot larvae!

Everyone (including the caterpillars) thought it was time for spring. But winter returned with additional snowfall at the MCCCW rearing facility.

WDFW biologist Mary Linders carefully releases Taylor’s checkerspot larvae onto their host plant.

When environmental conditions finally improved, SPP transported the caterpillars to field sites for release. Our partners at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) were happy to see healthy and active larvae crawling about in the sunny weather. Sadly, the women from MCCCW were unable to attend the release this year, but their efforts in the lab were recognized as critical in transitioning these larvae from captivity to the wild.

A curious Taylor’s checkerspot larva explores its new habitat.

 

WDFW biologist Mary Linders explains larval release procedures to volunteers.

 

A volunteer releases one final cup of Taylor’s checkerspot caterpillars.

This larva had already traveled over a yard from its release site!

In all, about 2,500 Taylor’s checkerspot larvae made it out to Salish lowland prairie reintroduction sites where they continue to support the recovery of this endangered species and their habitat.

Clouds break over the prairie as Taylor’s checkerspot larvae adjust to their new home.

Excellent Student and Teacher

By Susan Christopher, Butterfly Technician, Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

On his last day in the program, Seth holds a thank you card from the butterfly technicians. Photo by Keegan Curry.

The butterfly technicians from Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our departing program coordinator, Mr. Seth Dorman.

Mr. Dorman was with the program for about a year and a half. During that time his dedication and work ethic inspired us to be the best workers, students, and scientists we could be.

Seth and butterfly technicians carefully work through “spring wake-up,” the time when the caterpillars come out of winter dormancy. Photo by a technician.

He was both an excellent student and teacher. He learned very quickly about DOC policies and SPP’s butterfly program. He treated us with respect, encouraged us to think outside the box and to step outside our comfort zone and share those ideas. He displayed tremendous patience and a great sense of humor, even while trying to explain the concept of a “null hypothesis” to us.

Mr. Dorman’s coordination efforts produced, for the first time ever, the opportunity for two technicians to join a butterfly release. Also due to his efforts, all four technicians attended the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly working group meeting, where we had input on region-wide efforts to protect and recover the endangered species.

We consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Dorman: Thank you, Seth; we wish you the utmost success in all your future endeavors.

The Bridge to Evergreen

by Kristina Faires, SPP Program Enhancement Coordinator

The window I sit near and write this is open and expansive. It looks out to The Evergreen State College’s Red Square. Even on this stormy day, surrounded by Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir and many beautiful Maples, I take in my view and realize how different my world is from what it was. For 40 months I was incarcerated at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair, WA. The last year of my sentence I became involved with Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP), a partnership founded by The Evergreen State College & WA State Department of Corrections. SPP brings science and nature into the prisons.  It allows inmates to become involved with programs that focus on science and sustainability.

Butterfly technicians prepare materials for the spring wake up, when the caterpillars emerge from dormancy; Kristina is second from the left. Photo by Seth Dorman.

For a year I worked as a Butterfly Technician and research assistant with the endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. I cannot begin to express what a humbling experience it was. To be able to go from zero background in science, and then suddenly be immersed in an environment where I was learning new skills and collecting data as well as breeding an endangered species is crazy. For an organization to take a genuine interest in an inmate and say, “I believe in you” is amazing. They put faith in me regardless of my past choices and gave me an opportunity to grow and change along with the very thing I had been entrusted to care for. In time, not only did my competency and skill sharpen, my self-esteem grew.

Later in the season, Kristina hand feeds an adult butterfly. Photo by Seth Dorman.

My time in the butterfly program was such a rewarding and fulfilling experience. It helped me gain some much needed perspective about my life and what I wanted it to look like. It also ignited in me a passion to learn again. I ended up giving up my work release so I could stay and receive my certificate as a Butterfly Technician from SPP. I figured what a great bridge SPP has fostered for me: I already have this working relationship with SPP and The Evergreen State College. How perfect would it be to start my new life over with this network and support system already in place?  I applied for fall quarter at Evergreen and was accepted. Today I am a full-time student, with a focus on Environmental Science, and a part-time employee at SPP.

Transitioning from prison to college has been overwhelming at times. To go from an austere and rigid environment to a progressive liberal arts college where I call the shots, I choose my schedule, is liberating.  To have regained my voice and to actually be heard feels good. When I look back and reflect on the person I was and compare to who I am today, I am amazed at my growth. I feel like becoming involved with SPP and butterfly program was the catalyst for my change. Just as the butterfly goes through a time of metamorphosis, I too experienced transformation. Without it, it is hard to say what my world would be today.

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly nectars on a harsh paintbrush, one of the native plants that the species prefers. Photo by a butterfly technician.

Healing people and the environment

by Susan Christopher, Butterfly Technician at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

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Susan Christopher holds a butterfly larvae so PBS Newshour’s Cat Wise can take a photo. Photo by Kelli Bush.

In the past, our environment has suffered from many injustices inflicted by society. Over-development, air and water pollution, toxic waste production and irresponsible use of natural resources have negatively affected our environment in ways it may take generations to overcome.

Incarcerated individuals also feel the affliction of societal injustices. While most of us assume responsibility for our actions that led us to prison, the underlying reasons for those actions many times stem from injustices we have suffered at the hands of others. Unlike environmental injustices, broken homes, neglect, abuse, and abandonment are issue most of us can relate to.

This is where the sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) steps in. SPP offers the amazing opportunity to simultaneously heal both the environment and incarcerated individuals by bringing science and nature together, inside prison walls.

As a butterfly rearing and breeding technician at Mission Creek Correction Center for Women (MCCCW), I can personally speak for the tremendous impact this opportunity has made on my life. This awe-inspiring collaboration of partners includes scientists, biologists, students, administrators, inmates, and other, from several state and federal agencies, zoos, colleges, and prisons. It is astounding to be involved with such a large partnership that works so well together.

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A technician shares a close up of an adult butterfly in the lab during the 2016 breeding season. Photo by Kelli Bush.

SPP’s vision of creating an intellectually stimulating environment in which we have key roles in conservation, sustainability, and the advancement of scientific knowledge has, without a doubt, been the most positive endeavor I’ve ever been associated with.

The successes of our program have proven the worth of everyone’s efforts. It is so personally rewarding to be asked for my opinions and insights on such a complex subject matter, especially when I see some of those ideas are incorporated into program protocols.

The amount of healing I’ve received through my involvement with SPP has been immeasurable. There is also an overwhelming satisfaction in knowing that we are contributing to our environment’s recovery.

Thank you SPP for righting some of the past’s wrongs. I really do believe justice is being served through your hard work.

See Susan Christopher in the PBS Newshour interview here.

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Roots of Success Marathon Instructor Training, Part Two: Day Four

Photos and text by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Part One of the blog available here.

The four-day Roots of Success training event culminated with a day at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCC-W). It was a joy to be in the classroom with incarcerated women from WCC-W and Mission Creek Corrections Center. The attention and interest they gave the material were palpable, and I cannot wait to see them as instructors! Here are some photo highlights from the day.

Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at San Francisco State University and the Founder and Executive Director of Roots of Success Raquel Pinderhughes teaches a class of future Roots of Success instructors.

Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at San Francisco State University and the Founder and Executive Director of Roots of Success Raquel Pinderhughes teaches a class of future Roots of Success instructors.

A future Roots of Success instructor takes careful notes.

A future Roots of Success instructor takes careful notes.

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

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The classroom was illuminated by a skylight, and the day light entering the classroom was a lovely compliment to the intellectual and social illumination inside.

The future instructors were joined by staff from several prisons. They serve as liaisons for the Roots of Success program, and their enthusiasm for the course is a huge asset.

Paula Andrew, Dorothy Trainer, Ron Howell, Mark Black, and Greg Banner are DOC staff and SPP superstars--they do so much for our programs! The attended the training so that they can offer full support to the instructors and students of the course.

Paula Andrew, Dorothy Trainer, Ron Howell, Mark Black, and Greg Banner are DOC staff and SPP superstars—they do so much for our programs! The attended the training so that they can offer full support to the instructors and students of the course.

This Friday, I will visit the first Roots of Success class at WCC-W accompanied by SPP’s new program coordinator, Emily Passarelli. Emily takes over Roots coordination from Christina Stalnaker. Christina has graduated, and she left the program in great shape. She streamlined administration for Roots to the point that Emily will be able to give attention to developing further programs. Emily’s title is Green Track Coordinator, to represent a wider focus. Can’t wait to see where we take things next!

The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Program Releases Another Butterfly

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

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

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Liz Louie records data on pupae and butterfly weights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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