We empower sustainable change by bringing nature, science, and environmental education into prisons.


collaborate * learn * cultivate * grow * thrive

What that looks like

The first gardening course class works in their coursebooks. The peer-led program was created for (and by) people in prison and is meant to complement other gardening education programs and make academic study and certification more broadly available. Photo by Kelly Peterson.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) is a partnership founded by The Evergreen State College and Washington State Department of Corrections. With vital input from many additional partners, we develop and deliver a wide range of science, sustainability and environmental education programs in all 11 Washington state prisons.

Highlights include:

  • Now available for download! Our 2022 annual report.
  • New in 2023: A new Avian Acoustic Monitoring program brings citizen science to Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Incarcerated participants will be trained in recognizing the calls and sonograms of 12 species of birds. The new program was featured in a summer 2023 episode of BirdNote.
  • The first class of a new peer-led gardening course launched at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in the summer of 2020. A new composting course is being piloted in 2023.
  • After many years of coordination, SPP and The Evergreen State College began awarding undergraduate academic credit to incarcerated students. Nine Foundations in Gardening graduates and six Butterfly Technicians earned credit in 2022-2023.
  • Nearly all 10 honeybee programs continued in Washington state prisons during the COVID-19 emergency, though most had to suspend or slow formal beekeeping education. The handful of programs with peer-led education models flourished most, as they didn’t have to rely on visits from outside experts.
  • A new Sagebrush Education and Training Program developed with funding support from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) during 2022. Participants grew and delivered nearly 35,000 sagebrush plants, developed a new credit-bearing education and training course, and advanced planning for a new sagebrush seed orchard and nursery.
  • After several weeks of COVID-related suspension during the spring of 2020, SPP’s Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program partners — inside and outside the prison — created and followed a rigorous safety plan to allow them to restart the program. Following that plan, all partners successfully stewarded the breeding and egg-laying to supply 2021 and subsequent releases. Since 2011, program partners have reared more than 30,000 caterpillars and adult butterflies for release onto south Salish lowland prairies.
  • WA Corrections partners reported garden expansions across the state throughout the COVID-19 emergency, including the creation of Hope Gardens for the benefit of nearby communities.
  • In 2018, partners grew more than 246,700 lbs. of food and sent it to prison kitchens and food pantries.
  • From July 2018 – June 2019, prisons diverted more than 2,245 tons of waste to composting and recycling.

Technician Brian Bedilion pulls a tray of wetland plants out of the aquaponic bath. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

“I never did well in school and my skills were more on the manual labor side. While I was incarcerated at Cedar Creek Correction Center in 2015 thru 2018 I was given the opportunity to discover that I was wrong.”

Darin Armstrong, former SPP conservation technician

“What does science mean to me? Science is the study of the world around us… I would not want to experience life without science.”

Morris Talaga, SPP conservation nursery teaching assistant

Read about what SPP is & isn’t.


In response to the dual crises of ecological degradation and mass incarceration, we aim to reduce recidivism while improving human well-being and ecosystem health. SPP brings together incarcerated individuals, scientists, corrections staff, students, and program partners to promote education, conserve biodiversity, practice sustainability, and help build healthy communities. Together, we reduce the environmental, economic, and human costs of prisons.

Sign up to receive SPP’s next annual report.