Mission: 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 12 Washington State prisons. Recent highlights include:

  • Summer 2020: The first class of the new, peer-led gardening course launched at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. We hear it’s going really well!
  • Summer 2020: Nearly all 12 honeybees programs continue in Washington State prisons. Most have had to suspend or slow formal beekeeping education. A few programs were positioned to peer-led education thus don’t have to rely on visits from outside experts–those programs are flourishing the most.
  • Summer 2020: After several weeks of suspension, SPP’s Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program partners — inside and outside the prison — expressed strong interest in restarting the program; as a team, they created and followed a rigorous safety plan. Following that plan, all partners met their commitments and successfully stewarded the breeding and egg-laying that will supply next year’s releases. Since 2011, program partners have reared more than 24,500 caterpillars and adult butterflies for release onto south Salish lowland prairies.
  • Summer 2020: WA Corrections partners report garden expansions across the state, creating Hope Gardens for the benefits of nearby communities. We will report totals sent to prison kitchens and food pantries in our upcoming annual report (available in ~February 2021).
  • Pre-pandemic: In 2018, partners grew more than 246,700 lbs. of food and sent it to prison kitchens and food pantries.
  • Pre-pandemic: From July 2018 – June 2019, prisons diverted more than 2,245 tons of waste to composting and recycling.
  • Pre-pandemic: Our report for July 1, 2018 – June 30 2019 describes more than 200 programs! See the summary or full text.

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 more writing by incarcerated partners.

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.

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