Building a Bridge

In our last entry we wrote to tell you that funding for the Sustainable Prisons Project (SPP) was cut as a result of significant budget cuts within the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) and throughout the state. Since we received the news, Sustainable Prisons Project students and staff have been working hard to identify alternative funding sources.

We are pleased to report our first major success. The Evergreen State College (TESC) has provided “bridge funding” from reserves of the Academic Division. This will serve as a temporary bridge to give us “breathing space” through June 2011. It will provide enough support to: maintain our basic operations; provide one science lecture per month (rotated among our current corrections centers); support one graduate student; and initiate a green collar training program in arboriculture. It will also allow us to: maintain our website; connect with the media; and write grant proposals to foundations and individuals to further support and extend our work.

Our Co-leader, Dan Pacholke (WDOC), has extended the reassurance that the WDOC will continue to support this work with available staff effort, access to inmates and facilities, and guidance in shaping our program for the future. We have also been working with our conservation partners — at The Nature Conservancy, the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Zoo Foundation, and the Department of Defense — to augment their current funding so that we can sustain our current commitments of raising endangered frogs, prairie plants, and rare butterflies to enhance regional biodiversity and provide training for inmates.

Despite this funding setback, awareness of our project expands. Just yesterday, we learned that our project has been featured on the website of the National Science Foundation – a piece produced by Science Nation, which was filmed at Stafford Creek Corrections Center this summer. It captures very well our vision of linking offenders with science and conservation directly, and the benefits that accrue to all involved. Here is the link: http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/sciencebehindbars.jsp

During these difficult economic times, it has been warming to witness people stepping forward to help as much as they can. We have received hundreds of notes and responses to the WDOC termination announcement on our blog from people around the country and around the world, stating their support for the project, and their desire for it to continue. We will work hard to find ways to keep our program moving forward in the short and the long term.

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