House plants: A new way to bring nature inside at Larch Corrections Center

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Photos by Danette Gadberry, AA4 at Larch Corrections Center


An inmate at Larch Corrections Center (LCC) shows off spider plant babies from his collection of house plants.

This past spring, I received a letter from an inmate at Stafford Creek Corrections Center asking for support of program to bring house plants into inmates’ living units. While we were unable to make the program work at that prison, I have kept his proposal in mind: it seems an elegant and relatively simple way to “bring nature inside.” I have hoped that we would find a facility willing to pilot a house plant program, and now I discover that a pilot is already underway: Larch has house plants!

Larch Corrections Center (LCC) is a minimum security prison northeast of Vancouver, Washington, and the 40 acre campus is surrounded by National Forest land. I toured the facility for the first time last month and was impressed to see a wide array of sustainability programming, including large-scale composting and recycling (operational for ten years), staff-led waste reduction in the kitchen, and off-campus food production for a local food bank. When we visited a living unit, I was focused on seeing the cat program and missed the house plants. So glad to know about them now!

LCC was the first prison in Washington state to eliminate trash can liners, now standard practice in our prisons and saving the state thousands of dollars and resources. Once again, they are leading the way.


An inmate displays a variety of house plants next to his window; a cat toy is also visible.


An inmate displays a house plant in his room at LCC. The shelves behind him are for the feline resident of the room.

A cat in LCC’s feline program enjoys a high perch.

Freedom of the Frogs!

By Sadie Gilliom, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

Frog thinking about taking the leap out of Ms. Sibley’s hand.  Photo by Sadie Gilliom

On a drizzly September morning, a diverse team of professionals gathered at a wetland in Pierce County. Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) representatives were part of the group that also included staff from Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (Northwest Trek), the Center for Natural Lands Management, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The 153 state-endangered and federally-threatened Oregon spotted frogs (Rana pretiosa) pop-corning in tubs in the middle of the group were the focus of attention, it was release day!

The frogs were released into their natural habitat with the hope of boosting the population of this struggling species. Sixty-four were reared by SPP inmate technicians at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) while the remaining frogs were reared by zoo professionals at Northwest Trek. Late winter, biologists from WDFW gathered eggs from the wild and delivered them to the facilities where they were raised with protection from predation, disease, and habitat disturbance. Over the spring and summer the tadpoles hatched and developed into frogs under the care of zoo staff and inmate technicians.

The frogs seemed to anticipate their release. They jumped excitedly in their containers as they were carried down to the site. As the team gathered at the edge of the wetland, the sun broke through the clouds, as though to wish the frogs good luck on their journey into the wild. The frogs were released with time to adapt to their natural environment before the chill of winter sets in.

The release was an opportunity to enjoy the results of everyone’s hard work, coordination, and collaboration over the rearing season. The first frogs were released by SPP Liaison and CCCC Classification Counselor, Ms. Sibley. She popped the lid off the tub and the frogs sprang into the water. Most were gone in a flash, but a few were hesitant, staring at their new world for several minutes before springing into action. Throughout the release there were shouts of glee, handshakes, and smiles as all the frogs eventually hopped to freedom.

Sadie Gilliom encouraging the last few frogs. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

It is important to acknowledge a few of the people that helped make this season successful. Thank you Fiona Edwards! Fiona completed her term as SPP’s Frog and Turtle Program Coordinator this season and trained me to take on the responsibilities of the position. I also want to acknowledge Classification Counselors Pickard and Sibley for the time and effort they invested to make the program possible at CCCC. As Mr. Pickard recently accepted a new job, Ms. Sibley capably stepped into the DOC Liaison role. We wish Mr. Pickard well in his new position and appreciate his contributions. A huge thank you to Mr. Nuss, the inmate technician working throughout the season to provide the excellent care that resulted in healthy and robust frogs on release day. Finally, thanks to Superintendent Cole for his continued, passionate support for the program.

Fiona Edwards giving a frog a pep talk. Photo by Sadie Gilliom

There are many other partners that help make the SPP frog program possible: Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Woodland Park Zoo; Marc Hayes, Tammy Schmidt, and other staff at WDFW; SPP staff and leadership; and the many others who have contributed to the effort to save this valuable indicator species! Good luck Oregon spotted frogs of 2014! We wish you a successful and prolific future!

New to the Frog and Turtle Program!

By Sadie Gilliom, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

Sadie teaching teen summer campers from Thurston County how to identify native trees at Mount Rainier National Park. Photo by Alex Gilliom.

Greetings Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) followers!

My name is Sadie Gilliom. I am the new Oregon Spotted Frog and Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator as of August 19th.

I am excited to be a part of the SPP team and put my two great passions to work in one job: amphibian and reptile conservation and interpreting our natural world. I have always had a great love of amphibians and reptiles. I spent a great deal of my childhood watching red-legged frogs swimming in my pond, swimming with the rough-skinned newts in Shelton, WA, and watching turtles from my kayak on a lake in Michigan. Almost as much as I loved these adventures, I loved telling people about them. I have always enjoyed telling stories and using mind boggling facts to excite people about nature.

My passion for interpretation led me to become a member of the National Association of Interpretation and be certified as an Interpretive Guide. I hope to use the skills I gained in their programs to inspire stewardship in the inmate technicians at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC).

As well as my passions, my previous job experience has led me to feel at home in the world of SPP. Through zoo keeping at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, interpreting Pacific Northwest wildlife at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, and volunteering for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, I have gained both experience and connections in the field. I am looking forward to continuing to work with these organizations, now as program partners, and I hope to help strengthen SPP’s link to these partners. In addition, I hope to pass my job skills to the technicians at CCCC.

I am excited to start my Master of Environmental Studies at The Evergreen State College and have a head start in becoming part of the Evergreen community by working with SPP. Although it is awhile before I will start to write, I hope to involve SPP in my thesis and, in doing so, strengthen the partnerships between Evergreen, the Department of Corrections, and SPP.

I am thrilled to continue on my new SPP adventure and will keep you all posted on new highlights on our frog and turtle programs at Cedar Creek Corrections Center.

Inmates’ Zeal is the Key to Roots of Success in Ohio

by Christina Stalnaker, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

Women from the Ohio Reformatory for Women and Northeast Reintegration Center graduate from Roots of Success Facilitator Training.  This is the first time ODRC brought Roots to women's prisons.  Photo Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Women from the Ohio Reformatory for Women and Northeast Reintegration Center graduate from Roots of Success Facilitator Training. This is the first time ODRC brought Roots to women’s prisons. Photo by Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

“Roots of Success was the core component that tied together our cultural change in environmental awareness. We had begun recycling and composting. We addressed energy and water conservation, but I knew we needed education to really reach the inmates. Roots of Success took our green initiatives to a new level; it led the change that allowed inmates to be part of the environmental awareness at SCC (Southeastern Correctional Complex). The passion I saw from the inmates was amazing.”

-Warden Sheri Duffey, the first Warden to bring Roots to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC)

In prison classrooms throughout Ohio, ODRC provides facilitator training for inmates to deliver Roots of Success, an environmental literacy curriculum. These facilitators will prepare fellow inmates for re-entry into the green economy. ODRC also leverages inmates’ new-found passion and environmental education to implement sustainability initiatives throughout their facilities. ODRC brought Roots of Success to its first institution in 2011. Leah Morgan, ODRC Energy Conservation & Sustainability Administrator, informs us that the program proved to be so successful that it is now implemented in 19 out of 26 institutions, with plans to expand into all facilities within the next year.

Lorain Correctional Institution recently hosted ODRC’s largest Roots of Success train-the-trainer course to date, including both men and women from their facilities. Photo by Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Morgan attributes the program’s success to their inmates, “Honestly, though, it wouldn’t have taken off the way it did without the passion of the inmates behind it. They LOVE this program.  We have long-term offenders trained and certified to facilitate the program, so a) it is not incredibly staff intensive, and b) it gives them meaningful work that they don’t normally have an opportunity to have.”

You can see video testimony from two of ODRC’s original trainers here:

Video by Roots of Success.

Video by Roots of Success.

Both Tony Simmons and Willie Lagway are Roots of Success Master Trainers at the Southeastern Correctional Complex in Lancaster.

Graduations and Transitions

By Jaal Mann, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

After over two years working with the Sustainability in Prisons Project, it’s difficult to move on from this highly supportive and tight-knit group who work together to help everyone achieve success.

While I am sad to leave the program, the graduate students who come and go are part of what makes SPP the organization it is. Every year, a new batch of students begins to work with the program, advancing their own research in ways that can improve SPP’s practices, and bringing their fresh perspectives and ideas to the programs.

SPP's second-year conservation nursery graduate students, from left to right: Bri Morningred, Jaal Mann, and Drissia Ras. Jaal and Drissia have finished their Masters studies and will be moving on at the end of the month.

SPP’s second-year conservation nursery graduate students, from left to right: Bri Morningred, Jaal Mann, and Drissia Ras. Jaal and Drissia have finished their Masters studies and will be moving on at the end of the month.

At the same time, major transitions have happened in the Prairie Restoration Crew from Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Several inmates on the crew were released, and others moved on to different jobs. We recently held a graduation ceremony for crew members who had completed a certain number of hours of work, and it was great to be able to show recognition for their efforts.

Inmates on Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s Prairie Restoration Crew, past and present, receive recognition for their efforts over the past year in a graduation ceremony at the corrections center.

Inmates on Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s Prairie Restoration Crew, past and present, received recognition for their efforts over the past year in a graduation ceremony at the corrections center.

Three new graduate students have joined the conservation nursery team. The nursery programs will continue to flourish while providing life-changing experiences for both inmates and students who have the opportunity to work in them.

Clallam Bay Corrections Center Photo Gallery

Photos and text by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

On September 3rd, Evergreen’s SPP staff visited Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC). Corrections staff proved gracious and enthusiastic hosts. Hearing about their sustainability programs and plans for the future was well worth the trek from Olympia. Here is a photo gallery of some of the highlights:


We were dazzled by their greenhouse–every food plant inside was the picture of health. We sampled peas, lettuce, and tomatoes, and appreciated what a difference fresh produce must make to a prison menu.



The Food Services Manager and Gardener at CBCC have only worked together a few months, and already have figured out how to make the most of garden yields in the kitchen; a predictable harvest schedule has reduced grocery expenses, and meant that inmates opt to eat more lettuce.



CBCC sits on 92 acres, and there is ample room for expanding the gardening program inside and outside the fence. This photo shows an area outside the the windows of the Intensive Management Units, a site for future garden beds.



The prison already grows squash (shown here), carrots, radishes, spinach and other greens, herbs, and flowers. They have plans to add blueberries, rhubarb, and perhaps even gourmet mushrooms–crops that they know would be productive in their wet, mild climate.



Here bok choy seedlings respond to the benefits of soil improved by compost–these sprouted much more quickly than those in unimproved soil.



Prison staff have heard very positive feedback from inmates on the new garden program. It is incredible what they have accomplished this year, especially when you consider that they didn’t get started until June! Plans are to double their efforts in 2015, including using every inch of the central courtyard for growing food and ornamental plants.



The prison has a vocational baking program that provides inmates with culinary experience and offers staff and the town bakery fresh-baked deliciousness.



The prison has excellent waste sorting practices in place, and they are ready to expand their recycling and composting programs.



They shared a vision of near-zero waste: a single trash can wheeled out to the curb from a facility housing nearly 900 men. We can’t wait!


Our thanks to our hosts Superintendent Obenland, Associate Superintendent Mike Tupper, Facilities Manager Jack Brandt, Gardener Mike Indendi, Food Services Manager Jerry McAffe, and Roots of Success Liaison Mark Black. We look forward to seeing your sustainability programs grow by leaps and bounds!

First Prison to be Certified as Wildlife Habitat!

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is pleased to recognize the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) in Gig Harbor as an official Certified Wildlife Habitat site. NWF celebrates the efforts of the staff and offenders at WCCW to create garden spaces that improve habitat for birds, butterflies, frogs, and other wildlife. They have provided the essential elements needed by all wildlife – natural food sources, clean water, cover, and places to raise their young.

Paula Andrew displaying the NWF Habitat Certification plaque that can be found at the front entrance of WCCW.

Paula Andrew displaying the NWF Habitat Certification plaque that can be found at the front entrance of WCCW. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

From Paula Andrew, SPP Liaison at WCCW: “I can remember the day it all started – I sat in the back of the room during [NWF’s] Sustainability lecture and kept thinking to myself, ‘We do that! We have that! We qualify as a wildlife habitat!’ I read through the application to become certified, and each category referred to a practice we already had in place at WCCW. I started thinking about what a perfect partnership this would be, with perfect timing to fit in with the sustainable practices we were adopting throughout our facility.”

WCCW joins NWF’s roll of more than 150,000 certified habitats nationwide, but is the first prison to receive that distinction in Washington State, not to mention the whole Northern Rocky and Pacific Regions. Wildlife habitats are important to year-round wildlife residents as well as species that migrate, such as some birds and butterflies. Each habitat is unique for both beauty and function.

A family of bunnies spotted at WCCW, living proof of their wildlife habitat!

A family of bunnies spotted at WCCW, living proof of their wildlife habitat! Photo by DOC staff.

The WCCW habitat is a many-faceted gem, sprawling among 65 acres that play home to squirrels, birds, butterflies, and an adopted aging cat. The horticulture program has saturated the grounds with 28 varieties of food crops that are used to feed the 900-plus offenders that can be seen daily, diligently working the flower beds and fruit & vegetable growing areas with an admirable sense of pride.

Gardens at WCCW.

Gardens at WCCW. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sarah Joy Steele.

WCCW has recently reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable practices throughout the facility. Proof of that can be witnessed in the just-completed composting project; it is turning out rich soil to be used to in the many food and ornamental gardens.

For more information on gardening for wildlife and details on how an entire community can become certified, visit or call 1-800-822-9919. The mission of the National Wildlife Federation is to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

Environmental Justice and Hope for the Commons

by Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator

Working with SPP as a graduate student has provided more opportunity and professional experience than I could have imagined when I started as the Lecture Series Coordinator. Since then, my interest in social and environmental justice has blossomed, spurred by regular interactions with incarcerated individuals and the excitement they display for environmental topics. Thus I found myself presenting at the Just Sustainability: Hope for the Commons conference hosted by the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability at Seattle University this past weekend.

Science and sustainability lecture at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo credit: Benj Drummond

Sustainability workshop at Washington Corrections Center for Women. Photo credit: Joslyn Rose Trivett

Lecture versus Workshop

I presented on behalf of Sarah Weber, a former SPP coordinator and MES graduate, whose thesis research focused on environmental education in prison. More specifically, her research compared teaching methods (lecture vs. workshop-style presentations) and their influence on inmate attitudes and knowledge of environmental topics. Interestingly, when reanalyzing Sarah’s research for publication, we found results that differed from the original analysis: female students benefited more from workshops and male students benefited more from lectures (see figure below). This finding is particularly helpful for ensuring that the environmental education opportunities we offer are tailored to the audience. As the Lecture Series Coordinator, I plan to use these findings to better promote environmental learning through offering more workshops for women and lectures for men.

Results from Weber research

Results from Weber’s research.

“You never know what you can’t do.”

Presenting at the conference was a great experience, but my most appreciated take-away came from the wonderful plenary speakers. We heard from Bill McKibben of, the most widespread political action organization in our history; Sarah Augustine, a sociologist at Heritage College and indigenous activist; and Denis Hayes who coordinated the very first Earth Day and has gone on to do so much more.

They spoke about the global extraction industry and its impact on the environment as well as the displacement and rights violations of indigenous communities. The ecological problems they outlined were sobering, but they all offered a similar call to action. They encouraged everyone to reach beyond what you think is possible, because, as Denis Hayes put it, “You never know what you can’t do.” And while exercising political will can sometimes be uncomfortable, it is always necessary in encouraging effective change. I learned so much from these amazing people and the lessons they shared from years of environmental activism. Hearing their stories sparked a fire in my consciousness, and I feel reenergized in the work I do with SPP, the research for my Master in Environmental Studies, and in my personal life.

If you’re interested in getting involved with environmental action in the PNW, check out:

Beyond Coal WA

Climate Solutions

The E3 Network

Sierra Club, WA State Chapter

SPP Says Goodbye and Best Wishes to Dedicated Butterfly Technician

The Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (TCB) rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) was initiated in 2011. Inmate technicians first practiced raising painted lady butterflies in a new greenhouse just outside the facility’s gates. In less than a year they proved themselves more-than-capable at this kind of work. In 2012 they started rearing and breeding the endangered TCB.


Carolina Landa was an inmate technician with the program from its inception. She was present for the first delivery of TCB caterpillars. She worked with SPP from 2011 to 2013 as a full-time technician. Then, while completing other programs at MCCCW she volunteered her time to support new technicians. Over the years she helped raise over 6,000 caterpillars and butterflies for release onto South Sound Prairies. She has created new and innovative husbandry practices, participated in butterfly research, and helped to train and mentor other inmate technicians along the way. Her dedication, passion, and commitment to the delicate and detailed work of raising butterflies, is a large part of the reason this new and unique program has proven successful. These early accomplishments ensured that SPP, DOC staff, future inmate technicians, and other SPP partners will have the opportunity to continue work to recover this federally listed species.


Earlier this year Carolina wrote: “I just want to say that through these butterflies I have learned so much, and healed. It is amazing how God places all things in your life for a reason. This program has changed my life forever. I am so grateful for the knowledge, accomplishments and growth it has provided me. It is exciting to care for these beautiful creatures and giving back to the environment gives me a good feeling. ”

Photo by Benj Drummond

In mid-July Carolina transferred from MCCCW into a Community Parenting Alternative (CPA) program. This unique and groundbreaking program allows an inmate to serve up to 12 of the last months of their sentence in Home Detention. The focuses of this 2010 legislation are on the child, family, and the importance of maintaining the family bond for inmates reentering the community. Due to the contributions Carolina made during her incarceration, she was granted this well-deserved opportunity to finish her sentence with her family.

This means that Carolina is no longer a butterfly technician at MCCCW. However, her contributions will stay with the program for years to come. She states that she would like to continue her involvement in the TCB rearing program as a volunteer or student after she is released. She intends to pursue an undergraduate degree at The Evergreen State College in the near future.

SPP would like to thank Carolina for all of her work with the butterflies and welcome her back into her community. We wish her the best of luck in all that she aspires to in the future.

Reaching higher at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

The group tours CRCC's main campus.

The group tours CRCC’s main campus.

SPP Peer to Peer gathering

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager
All photos by Kelly Frakes, Capitol Programs

Twenty-two people gathered at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) for a two-day, high-intensity meeting at the end of June. This was a “peer to peer” event, funded in part by the SPP Network Conference Grant from the National Science Foundation. To make plans for CRCC’s sustainability programs, we brought experts (“peers”) in sustainability from Airway Heights Corrections Center and Washington State Penitentiary, WA Department of Ecology, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), and SPP staff from Washington Department of Corrections headquarters and The Evergreen State College. Many of CRCC’s administrative and operations staff joined the meeting, and they proved both gracious hosts and willing subjects.

The state of the art laundry facility at CRCC reclaims heat and water at multiple steps.

The state of the art laundry facility at CRCC reclaims heat and water at multiple steps.

The first order of business for the visitors was learning about CRCC’s campus and existing sustainability programs. CRCC’s main complex is Washington’s newest prison, opened in 2009. It holds the distinction of being the only LEED Gold Certified prison campus in the country. Linda Glasier from WA Ecology related that the extra costs incurred by meeting LEED Gold standards was paid back in about six months (through energy savings), and that CRCC is one of the state’s most resource-efficient complexes. This infrastructure could be the foundation for surpassing sustainable operations programs in a prison.

The central yard at CRCC reflects the need to use no water for irrigation. The prison is located in a desert.

CRCC is located in a desert. The stark central yard reflects the standard of using little-to-no water for irrigation.

One of the challenges faced by CRCC is How to bring nature inside without using more water?

One of the challenges faced by CRCC is How to bring nature inside without using more water?

After an initial welcome and setting the stage, the group toured many areas of the expansive campus: kitchen, warehouse, laundry, textile shop, a living unit, the main yard, and waste collection sites. We also visited the recycling center, housed in the older, minimum security area. All were impressed by the rigorous sorting and the impressive reductions in waste already accomplished. All were also impressed by the extreme heat outside—even though we were not in the heat of summer, many bodies were wilting in the hot, arid environment!

Kelley Thompson who runs the recycling center for CRCC shared the impressive programming already in place.

Shelley Thompson who runs the recycling center for CRCC shared the impressive operations already in place.

Graph showing CRCC's waste reductions over a four year period. Graphic courtesy of Kelley Thompson.

Graph showing CRCC’s waste reductions over a four year period. Graphic courtesy of Shelley Thompson.

Day two of the gathering was devoted to a marathon meeting. The group participated in a “brain dump,” committing to paper their ideas for sustainability programming. We also heard from our visiting experts. Linda Glasier from Ecology encouraged CRCC not to talk about “waste”. The materials called “waste” are actually commodities, and there are better uses and destinations for those resources than the landfill. Along similar lines, Sergeant Resor from the Correctional Facility at JBLM advised the group to “throw nothing away!”

The results of the brain dump were organized into topics, and the group voted to determine three top priorities for action:

  • Elimination of single-use plastics
  • Zero net waste
  • Education and culture change

With determination and focus, the group crafted action plans for the three initiatives. We emphasized immediate next steps and short term goals. We left the meeting with concrete commitments to further building on the already-excellent sustainability programs at CRCC.

"Sustainability guru" for CRCC, Sam Harris, talks with Linda Glasier from WA Dept. of Ecology and JBLM's Solid Waste & Recycling Program Manager Ron Norton.

“Sustainability guru” for CRCC, Sam Harris, talks with Linda Glasier from WA Dept. of Ecology and JBLM’s Solid Waste & Recycling Program Manager Ron Norton.