Tag Archives: prison

So Close to a Million Plants We Can Almost Taste It

By Carl Elliott, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager

SPP’s Conservation Nursery continue to thrive at three facilities in Washington State: Stafford Creek Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center for Women, and Shotwell’s Landing Nursery. Since 2010, we have delivered almost 1,000,000 plants for restoration and habitat enhancement projects on Puget lowland prairies— just 33,000 more plants and we’ll be there! In 2013 we provided 375,000 plugs for prairie projects (see the table below); this is a 14% increase over what we produced the year before. We achieved the increase by adding nursery capacity at Washington Corrections Center for Women, plus increased support from the dedicated prairie restoration crew from Cedar Creek Corrections Center.

This was the first season for nursery production at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW). The crew of five inmate technicians carefully cultivated and shipped 80,000 native prairie plants. They were particularly success at growing blanket flower, Gaillardia aristata, a species that in past years showed low germination and growth rates. The warmer conditions in the propagation hoop houses at WCCW proved to be just the environment that allowed this species to thrive. The Conservation Nursery program benefits enormously from having a new site with an enthusiastic crew of technicians and staff.

WCCW Conservation Nursery Crew loading Gaillardia aristata to be delivered to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo by Bri Morningred.

WCCW Conservation Nursery Crew loading Gaillardia aristata to be delivered to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo by Bri Morningred.

SPP’s Conservation Nursery continues to be a highly collaborative effort. Regional coordination is provided by the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM); they bring together managers responsible for prairie habitat to develop detailed restoration and habitat enhancement plans for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. The plants cultivated by SPP’s Conservation Nursery directly benefit the regional stakeholders such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wolfhaven International, and CNLM. This year we also increased the number of plants going to land managers of prairies in the northern portion of the Puget lowlands, Whidbey and the San Juan Islands; we hope to further those relationships in the future.

The delivery truck is almost full with 400 trays, a load of 39,000 plants. Photo by Bri Morningred

The delivery truck is almost full with 400 trays, a load of 39,000 plants. Photo by Bri Morningred

Though we came up just short of the magic number of 1,000,000 in the 2013, we feel confident that in 2014 we will blow right past that goal, and on to our next milestone!

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Americorps volunteers planting out SPP-grown plugs on the prairie at Glacial Heritage Reserve. Photo by CNLM staff.

Americorps volunteers planting out SPP-grown plugs on the prairie at Glacial Heritage Reserve. Photo by CNLM staff.

SPP visits the United Nations

By Brittany Gallagher, Education & Evaluations Coordinator

In July, I had the honor of spending two weeks at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, for the UN’s annual Graduate Study Programme (GSP).  I was excited to represent SPP and Evergreen in an international group of graduate students and to learn all I could about international civil service.

Brittany Gallagher, center, at the UN Graduate Study Programme.

This year’s GSP theme was “Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.”  My classmates were students from every continent; representatives came from China, Rwanda, Germany, Mali, Morocco, Australia, Italy, Slovenia, France, Russia, Bolivia, Trinidad & Tobago, and the US, to name only a sample.  Many were studying international relations, law, human rights, or similar topics.  There were a few psychology and public health students, but I was one of only a few studying the environment.  However, thanks to the interdisciplinary nature of Evergreen’s Graduate Program on the Environment and my background in international development, I didn’t feel out of place in education or experience.

We each introduced ourselves to the large group and described our work, studies, and interests.  I was impressed by the level of engagement and the diversity of experience in the room.  After my brief presentation, I entertained a slew of questions about SPP.  These questions continued between classes at the UN office, over lunch, on the tram on the way home, and at the lake on the weekends.  In addition to talking frog conservation with my peers, the speaker from the United Nations Environment Programme was especially interested in what SPP does!  I was reminded of how innovative our project is – people were fascinated by the concept and the practice.  After two years with SPP, I have become accustomed to our mission and daily activities, but I forget that many folks have never heard of conservation programs involving prison inmates.

Representatives from UN agencies visited to present their organizations’ work on gender equality. I went through two notebooks taking copious notes. UNOG photo.
BG at UN Nations gate July 2013

During the two-week program, our class heard from representatives from a variety of UN agencies about their work on gender equality.  We also split up into five working groups and tackled case studies related to the theme.   Each working group was mentored by a UN staff member from the relevant agency; they advised our work and challenged us to create high-quality “work plans” addressing current real-world issues related to gender.  I chose to work in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) group, and we were given the freedom to select a topic.  We designed a country program for addressing sexual and gender-based violence in camps for internally displaced people in Haiti.  Our report is nearly finished and will be presented to the ‘real’ UNFPA in September.

I am enormously grateful to SPP and Evergreen for supporting my attendance at the GSP, and to the UN for providing students like me with this extraordinary opportunity.  Check out the links in this post and the UN-GSP Facebook page if you want to learn more about it!

As in Olympia, newcomers to Geneva complained about the weather (but, as in Olympia, the weather in July was gorgeous). They also have a Mountain that, like ours, hides on cloudy days. The view from the UN office is great even on an overcast day.

As in Olympia, newcomers to Geneva complained about the weather (but, as in Olympia, the weather in July was gorgeous). They also have a Mountain that, like ours, hides on cloudy days. The view from the UN office is great even on an overcast day.

Washington Corrections Center for Women Celebrates its SPP programs

by Bri Morningred, SPP Graduate Research Assistant and SPP Coordinator for Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) conservation nursery
photos by Shauna Bittle

Heading out for a tour of SPP programs, passing the gorgeous gardens at WCCW

Heading out for a tour of SPP programs, passing the gorgeous gardens at WCCW

It was a beautiful day in Gig Harbor, WA, perfect for the celebration of the amazing sustainability programs at Washington Correction Center for Women (WCCW). We had prepared for the celebration for months, and it was gratifying to share with partners and the public the many contributions offenders have made to a sustainable prison community.

Restoration and Conservation Coordinator Carl Elliott describes the SPP conservation nursery program at WCCW

Restoration and Conservation Coordinator Carl Elliott describes the SPP conservation nursery program at WCCW

The tour began with introductions from the superintendent of WCCW, Jane Parnell, and from Carri LeRoy and Carl Elliott of SPP. The tour’s first stop was the Conservation Nursery hoop houses at the minimum security campus. Attendees had a chance to watch the conservation nursery crew at work, walk through the carpet of Indian paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) that was beautifully in bloom, and speak with the SPP staff and offender technicians about the conservation nursery program.

Outside and inside of one of the hoop houses in the conservation nursery

Outside and inside of one of the hoop houses in the conservation nursery

Scott Skaggs, Construction and Maintenance Project Supervisor and WCCW manager of the conservation nursery crew, examines a plant showing signs of insect damage

Scott Skaggs, Construction and Maintenance Project Supervisor and WCCW manager of the conservation nursery crew, demonstrates monitoring for insect damage on Indian paintbrush

SPP Graduate Research Assistant Bri Morningred enjoys a moment of success with an inmate technician in the conservation nursery

SPP Graduate Research Assistant Bri Morningred enjoys a high five with an offender technician in the conservation nursery

Indian paintbrush (Castilleja species) thriving in the conservation nursery

Indian paintbrush thriving in the conservation nursery

Next up was the community gardens on the way to medium security campus. This leg of the tour was led by Ed Tharp, who runs the Horticulture Program at WCCW. These gardens are in the courtyard area of the minimum security campus and grow a variety of foods that are harvested for the prison’s kitchen.

Ed Tharp, x Community College, runs the horticultural program at WCCW

Ed Tharp, Tacoma Community College, runs the horticultural program at WCCW

The final tour stop was in the concrete courtyard of the medium security campus. Located next to the education building—which houses the horticulture classroom, the floral program, and many other wonderful educational programs—there are various garden beds  growing onions, garlic, and strawberries.

Enjoying the strawberry beds at WCCW

Enjoying the strawberry beds at WCCW

Assistant Superintendent for WCCW David Flynn, the champion of many SPP programs for the facility, talks to the group about recent activities

Assistant Superintendent for WCCW David Flynn, the champion of many SPP programs for the facility, talks to the group about recent activities

Audrey Lamb, Conservation Assistant at the Center for Natural Lands Management, regards gardens in the close custody area of WCCW

The tour visits gardens in the close custody area of WCCW; Audrey Lamb, Conservation Assistant at the Center for Natural Lands Management, in the foreground

We ended with a poster session and awards ceremony in the gymnasium.  We ate prison-grown salad and strawberries and cupcakes decorated with prairie flowers. Attendees toured  informational tables for many of the sustainable programs at WCCW, including the Prison Pet Partnership Program, Mother Earth Farms, the Horticulture Program, Food Services, the Recycling Program, Sustainability in Prisons Project, and Center for Natural Lands Management.

SPP's Carl Elliott receives prison-grown salad at the poster session

SPP’s Carl Elliott receives fresh garden salad at the poster session

Melissa Johnson (?), publicity and outreach for WCCW, admires the horticultural program display at the poster session

Melissa Johnson, publicity and outreach for WCCW, admires the horticultural program display at the poster session

Best cupcakes ever! Bri Morningred and x bakery collaborated to produce native plant-decorated cupcakes for the celebration. They also tasted great!

Best cupcakes ever! SPP’s Bri Morningred collaborated with a local bakery to produce native plant-decorated cupcakes for the celebration. They also tasted great!

Jane Parnell, Superintendent of WCCW, presents an inmate technician with a certificate of appreciation at an awards ceremony

Jane Parnell, Superintendent of WCCW, presents an offender technician with a certificate of appreciation at an awards ceremony

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An offender technician on the conservation nursery crew shows a certificate of appreciation recognizing her dedication to the program

It was wonderful to get to recognize the amazing things happening at WCCW. The prisons community is  taking great strides toward sustainable living and it is inspiring to work with them towards that goal.

Bountiful gardens at Washington Corrections Center for Women

By Melissa R. Johnson, Administrative Assistant, Washington Corrections Center for Women

Program director Ed Tharp in the garden at Washington Corrections Center for Women.Gig Harbor, Wash.—Emphasizing the importance of sustainability, the horticulture program at Washington Corrections Center for Women provides an opportunity for offenders to enroll as Tacoma Community College students in order to learn job skills and gain important experience in nursery operations and floral design. So far this year, the gardens have produced 9,365 pounds of vegetables that were harvested and then prepared and served in the offender kitchen—and it’s still growing.

“This is one of the most gratifying jobs I have ever had,” said program director Ed Tharp. “One of the things I enjoy the most is seeing the ladies succeed when they get out.”

The facility’s horticulture department employs 10 students as teacher assistants who are responsible for the planting and harvesting of the gardens. Currently 51 students are enrolled in horticulture and 14 are enrolled in organic farming. Horticulture students learn about sustainable gardening, vegetable gardening, plant propagation, commercial greenhouses, floral design, floral shop operation and integrated pest management, just to name a few.  Organic farming students have the opportunity to work on an outside crew at Mother Earth Farm, an organic farm in Puyallup.

Canyon Little, Mother Earth Farm manager, said her farm has been able to produce about 148,000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables on nearly eight acres of land in the Puyallup Valley. She told Tharp she was “impressed with how hard each of the offenders worked on every visit, and how they were eager to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired through their education.”

The garden at Washington Corrections Center for Women“Because each offender demonstrated a high capacity of responsibility for day-to-day farm activities, I decided to assign special projects for each lady,” Little said. “The project idea was a way for the offenders to take ownership of the farm, learn something new and educate each other on their respective projects. Being a part of the learning process was an enriching experience as a manager, and I look forward to working with Washington Corrections Center for Women to explore new boundaries, build knowledge and experiences and work together to fight hunger.”

Mother Earth Farm works with the Emergency Food Network by supplying fresh produce to 74 local food banks, hot-meal sites and shelters in Pierce County. Other produce was sent to the Cannery Project in Kent, which converted the donations into more than 1000,000 cans of fruits and vegetables.

Washington Corrections Center for Women is excited to see what next year will hold. Next year’s garden is already planned and the seeds are ordered.

SPP Plant Profile: Roemer’s Fescue (Festuca roemeri)

By Graduate Research Associate Evan Hayduk

Festuca Roemeri, Roemer’s Fescue

This is the first installment in a new series of pieces we are calling our plant profiles. Over the coming months we will highlight one of the 40 species of prairie or riparian plants that are grown at Stafford Creek Correctional Facility. This is intended to give you an idea of what we are growing, focus on the conservation importance of each species, and offer a few fun facts about each species.

Basic Information: Roemer’s fescue is a bluish, gray-green tufted bunch grass that grows from British Columbia (southeastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands), and west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon and Northern California. These areas are typically temperate, with maritime influence. Roemer’s fescue grows from sea level to about 2500 ft. The species is also found in thin-soiled windswept shorelines on the islands of the Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Straits of Georgia.

Ecological Importance: A foundation species of the prairies of the Pacific Northwest, Roemer’s fescue is predominately found in the glacial outwash prairies of the South Sound and those which have a history of anthropogenic burning.  Its quick growth makes this fescue an effective ground cover, but its bunch grass nature allows for the growth of other important prairie species, including associated species common camas (Camassia quamash), field woodrush (Luzula campestris), spike goldenrod (Solidago spanthulata), early blue violet (Viola adunca) and prairie lupine (Lupinus lepidus) to name a few.

Who is this Roemer guy anyway? Roemer’s fescue is named for Swiss physician, professor of botany and entomologist Johann Jakob Roemer (1762-1819). Roemer was best known for one of the greatest achievements in the history of Swiss entomology, the Genera insectorum Linnaei et Frabricii. Roemer also published the 16th edition of Carlos Linnaeus’ Systema Vegetabilium.

Fescue in the teaching gardens at The Evergreen State CollegeFescue plugs

Fescue plugs

 

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.

 

Smoke Water

Posted by Graduate Research Associate Carl Elliott

In a plant nursery that focuses on native plants and restoration, expectations are a bit different than at a traditional commercial nursery. Commercial nursery production has focused on those plants that make a good economic return for the grower. All managers of commercial nurseries know that if you have a rapid and efficient turn-over of plant material through the year, you generate a greater income per square foot. There is an industrial infrastructure and research to support the industry in this process.  For restoration nurseries interested in basic germination protocols or more complex issues of genetic integrity or in-breeding depression, there is not such a well-developed research infrastructure, and a great many questions remain to be answered.

At the conservation nursery at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, we have generated a number of basic scientific questions regarding the germination ecology of the prairie species we cultivate. One of the most engaging is the seeds response to prairie fires. Fires have been an integral tool to maintain prairies in the Pacific Northwest for at least 8,000 years. The fires in this ecosystem are not natural; they were used by First Peoples to maintain the extant and health of the prairies that are surrounded by evergreen woodlands. The seeds of over 250 species of plants have been shown to significantly increase in response to the smoke generated by fires. This is particularly true for species from fymbos matorral, chaparral and grassland ecosystems. So, our project developed a question to determine whether the smoke from fires could increase the germination rates of some of the more difficult to germinate plants.  Rather than apply smoke (and therefore fire) to the seeds themselves we applied smoke infused water as a treatment to seeds.

I took on the scientific design and execution of the seed germination experiments as part of my graduate thesis at The Evergreen State College. However, the experiment is a fully collaborative endeavor. The Nature Conservancy collected and curated the seed from their Shotwell’s Landing nursery. The offenders at Stafford Creek cleaned the seed, counted out replicates and participated in the germination experiments involving six of the species. The experiment involved measuring the germination rate of the six species. The seeds were divided into three treatment groups: two different levels of smoke water and a plain water control. The offenders applied the treatments to 10 replicates of each and the monitoring for germination went for 35 days.

Inmates at Stafford Creek Corrections Center count seed.

To prepare for the experiments, the offenders participated in workshops designed to facilitate discussions about the scientific methods used to come to robust conclusions. It was not the first time that offenders were exposed to a scientific reasoning process. Many have previous educational experience or have attended enough lectures organized by the Sustainable Prisons Project to be confident about offering their opinions to a discussion on scientific methods. At this point the experiments are nearly complete on most of the species and we can compile and analyze the results. My goal is to be able to go over some of the statistical methods used and get the offenders input on how the results we get can be used in the nursery to increase our propagation success. Look forward to the results in future posts.

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.