Education and Training

In today’s economy, green-collar workers—people with expertise in ecology, energy efficiency and Earth-friendly development—are in increasingly high demand for their skills. This includes vocational and trade-level workers: carpenters who construct green buildings, weatherization specialists, installers of solar panels and wind turbines, ecological research assistants, organic farmers, beekeepers, and others.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project inspires and trains inmates and correctional staff through guest lectures, an environmental literacy program, and hands-on workshops. Activities are geared toward improving prison sustainability while connecting participants to the larger world of scientific research and conservation. Topics have included plant and wildlife ecology, sustainable agriculture, urban horticulture, alternative energy, and building with recycled materials. We introduce inmates to educational and employment opportunities that they may pursue after release, a critical factor for reducing recidivism according to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy.


Biologist Anna Thurston shares a native plant cutting with an inmate at Stafford Creek Corrections Center during a sustainability lecture. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Science & Sustainability Lecture Series

SPP-sponsored lecture series are underway at Stafford Creek, Washington State Penitentiary, and the Washington Corrections Center for Women. Scientists and community members active in conservation and sustainability share their passion and knowledge with inmates on wide ranging topics: wildlife biology, hydrology, innovations in composting, energy and biofuels, native plant identification, and reconciling science and religion.

Lectures are enthusiastically received and we hear many requests for more topics and repeat lectures. Share your expertise in science or sustainability by contacting Tiffany Webb, SPP’s Lecture Series Coordinator, at 360-867-6765 or

Roots of Success roots

Following SPP-Ohio’s success with Roots of Success, an environmental literacy curriculum, SPP-WA is now offering the program at four WDOC facilities. An endorsement of Roots from Green Jobs Pioneer Van Jones:

Roots of Success is the missing ingredient in the green collar jobs landscape: an accessible curriculum that helps people break the cycle of poverty by providing needed job and academic skills while empowering them to improve environmental and public health conditions in their communities. (From the Roots of Success website)

Instructors of Roots of Success include inmates trained to deliver the curriculum to their peers. The program is already underway in four Washington state correctional facilities: Correctional Industries in Tumwater, Stafford Creek in Aberdeen, Cedar Creek in Littlerock, and Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Initial responses to this opportunity have been very positive.

Education is an Essential Component of SPP

In addition to offering education-specific programming, SPP integrates education into every one of our programs. We try to act on every opportunity to incorporate technical and conceptual education for all SPP participants. Some examples include:

  • Asking inmate technicians and DOC staff what resources would inform and improve SPP programs; providing the books and articles they request
  • Encouraging program participants to pursue their research questions; providing the support needed to conduct that research
  • Creating clear education goals for inmate technicians; wherever possible, formalizing achievement of those goals with certificates (some colleges accept certificates for academic credit)
  • Promoting SPP programs and practices to the prison community with informative signs