Prisons are essentially small cities, operating 24/7. From housing and food service to educational programs and correctional industries, they can be extremely costly and resource-intensive. But we can lessen their impact. We can make prisons more sustainable, not only saving money and the environment, but also setting an example for other residential institutions such as military bases, assisted living centers and summer camps.
In 2002, the Department of Corrections (DOC) responded to Governor Locke’s directive to conserve energy and water, limit and recycle waste and construct green facilities. Today, the Sustainability in Prisons Project partnership builds on this commitment. We support, evaluate and refine sustainable operations and share best practices among prisons. We also help assess long-term operational trends, including carbon emissions, and set new goals and strategies for improvement.
We work together to develop cost-effective, environmentally sound practices for prison operations and engage offenders with direct responsibility for these activities where security is in place. Current practices range from recycling, composting and organic gardening to restoring bicycles and rehabilitating troubled dogs for adoption. We anticipate that offender participation in these activities – typically in the form of a prison job – will improve behavior and deepen individual and institutional investment in sustainability.
The following activities are currently underway at participating prisons:
Cedar Creek Corrections Center
Recycling, composting, organic gardening, horticulture greenhouse, beekeeping, water catchment basins, low-flush toilets, energy conservation and field crews with the Department of Natural Resources for tree planting and wildland firefighting.
Stafford Creek Corrections Center
Recycling, composting, organic gardening, horticulture greenhouse, beekeeping, water and energy conservation, motorless lawn mowing, the Bicycles from Heaven refurbishing program with the Gray’s Harbor Lions Club and the K-9 Rescue program to rehabilitate troubled dogs for adoption by families.
Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women
Recycling, composting, organic gardening, K-9 Rescue program to rehabilitate troubled dogs for adoption by families, and field crews with the Department of Natural Resources for tree planting and wildland firefighting.
Washington Corrections Center for Women
Recycling, composting, horticulture greenhouse (Tacoma Community College certificate), native plant conservation nursery, water and energy conservation, Prison Pet Partnership Program (dog training and grooming) and field crews for an independent organic farm that supports local food banks.
McNeil Island Corrections Center
McNeil Island Corrections Center closed in April 2011. While open, the staff prioritized improved recycling, additional water and energy conservation, transportation fuel reduction and toxic pollution remediation due to the impacts of the former penitentiary on site.
Learn more about sustainability at the Department of Corrections, including yearly progress reports.
Share your expertise in science or sustainability with the Sustainability in Prisons Project: Call for Presenters and Researchers.