What We Do
We do everything we can to recognize the potential of people incarcerated by our culture.
We believe that to advance science and sustainability, we need their input, their creativity and innovation.
We see incarcerated students and technicians as full partners, and have as at least as much to learn from them as they do from visiting experts and administrators. Toward this end, our activities focus on five areas:
We inspire and train inmates and correctional staff through programs designed to improve prison sustainability and connect participants to the larger world of science and conservation. Our instructors range from biologists and farmers to business entrepreneurs and green energy experts.
With support from visiting scientists, we carry out ecological research and conservation projects involving inmates, college students and community partners. Current projects include rearing Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, caring for western pond turtles, and propagating native prairie plants.
We help corrections staff and inmates develop cost-effective, environmentally sound practices for operating prisons. Many incarcerated technicians are invested in program success, and become experts on a system. Sustainable operations includes recycling, composting, energy retrofits, and updating purchasing policies.
Each prison has formed partnerships with nearby organizations that allow staff and inmates to directly contribute to communities outside the fence, and express their creativity and generosity. State-wide in 2015, we grew more than 400,000 pounds of fresh produce for food banks and prison kitchens, and donated more than 30,000 hand-crafted items to non-profits.
Humans typically benefit from contact with non-human nature. SPP brings nature inside prisons with the motivation to relieve stress of prison environments. This program category is for the programs most focused on positive contact with nature, such as flower gardens, nature imagery, and ornamental ponds. We intend to expand programming in this category to include more formal nature therapy.
State-wide, Washington’s 12 prisons host more than 170 SPP programs. Washington’s prisons represent a broad spectrum of population size, gender, security level and infrastructure, providing myriad examples for such programs at other locations. SPP serves as a model for prisons in other states and around the world, and also for residential institutions such as military bases, assisted living centers, and summer camps.
Another SPP priority is tracking and evaluating our work. We document how our programs are received and the many outcomes: reductions in energy consumption, numbers of frogs raised and lectures offered, and pounds of produce donated. We also work with professional evaluators and students to assess the impacts of SPP on knowledge, behavior and attitudes of all participants.