Tales of Transformation

The "butterfly greenhouse" at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.

The “butterfly greenhouse” at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women. Photo by Seth Dorman.

Several butterfly technicians involved with the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Rearing Program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) have expressed how the SPP program has helped them further their education and while also impacting them personally. Susan Christopher has been with the program for almost two full seasons and expressed the following:

“I am currently incarcerated at Mission Creek Correction Center for Women (MCCCW) in Belfair, Washington. Last March I was selected to participate in the Sustainability in Prison Project’s (SPP) Butterfly Program as a Butterfly Rearing Technician.  I was excited, but had little knowledge or expectations about the program. Since then, I have been on an incredible journey through the world of science, biology, and my own spirit.

 This program is an amazing opportunity, especially considering the fact that I am in prison.  The responsibility of caring for an endangered species, adding to that, the responsibility of recording and maintaining all the correlating scientific data involved, has given me a sense of accomplishment unparalleled in my pre-prison life.  The trust awarded me by prison staff and all the SPP partners has also been a tremendous boost to my self-esteem.  Throughout this program, my thoughts and ideas are heard, considered, and utilized when applicable.  It’s an extremely important affirmation that what I’m doing is truly worthwhile.

Our successes in the program have also shown me that I can make a difference in this world, even from behind bars.  Each and every one of us has the ability to contribute to society in a positive way if given the chance.

I know that my involvement with this program has forever changed my life.  Everything from the sustainability of this planet to the beauty of the cycle of life has become a passion of mine.  As a result of that, I am also currently targeted to become an inmate instructor for the SPP-sponsored  “Roots of Success” program here at MCCCW.

Additionally, I can’t help but see the comparison of my life to that of the butterfly.  I have grown to love the butterfly in all of its life stages, but the miracle of its metamorphosis has come to symbolize the changes I’ve gone through in my own life.  I now understand that some struggles in life are necessary to shape who we are to become. 

I would like to thank everyone involved with this program for giving me the chance to view myself as one of God’s beautiful creatures, much like the Taylor Checkerspot Butterfly.  And because of that, I’m definitely looking forward to spreading my wings and using the wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained here upon my release back into the world.”

Very Respectfully,

Susan Christopher 

Susan Christopher making butterfly masks for Girls Scouts Behind Bars visiting the Butterfly Greenhouse.

Susan Christopher crafting butterfly masks for Girls Scouts Behind Bars scheduled to visit the Butterfly Greenhouse. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

Butterfly technician Kristina Faires was with the program for one full season and is now enrolled at The Evergreen State College for the fall quarter of 2016. Kristina said the following about her experiences with the Butterfly Program:

To be able to say, I love my job, is huge, but to say that I love my job in prison is monumental! My experience this last year working as a butterfly rearing technician with the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, an endangered species, has been incredible, to say the least. I have been fortunate to be given such an amazing opportunity.  This year alone my co-workers and I raised over 2,500 larvae that were later released back into their native prairie lowland habitat. There is a sense of accomplishment I feel knowing that our efforts are being recognized daily, in the form of restoring an endangered species. The acknowledgment our program receives from collaborators, staff and peers have been fundamental in realizing our potential on a personal basis as well as a professional one.

Being able to have this positive experience has triggered my own metamorphosis. I had forgotten how good it felt to be interested, absorbed and stimulated in something that matters. During my involvement with this program, I have developed a strong attachment to the natural world and a desire to continue my education in environmental studies. I am proud to say that I have been accepted to The Evergreen State College this fall with a scholarship as well as a nice financial aid package. I feel humbled when I look at the universe of living things that endure, evolve and flourish around me when I remember to slow down and look.”

-Kristina Faires

Kristina Faires "wakes up" sleeping butterfly larvae from their winter dormancy or diapause.

Kristina Faires “wakes up” sleeping butterfly larvae from their winter dormancy or diapause life stage. Photo by Seth Dorman.



1 Comment:

  1. Melinda smieja

    My sister Susan.. You have come so far and I am so proud of you. Like the butterflies you work with, your have come a long way and have grown so much being where you are. You have spread your wings and learned to find the amazing woman inside. I love you with all my heart, you are my hero and I love you.

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