Author Archives: Emily Passarelli

Interview with Officer Glenn Epling, New Beekeeping Project Lead at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

By Fiona Edwards, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

Officer Glenn Epling

Officer Glenn Epling

In June, I had the opportunity to meet Officer Glenn Epling, the new beekeeping project lead at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC). Officer Epling enthusiastically described tending beehives and his experiences as a third generation beekeeper. He gave an impromptu demonstration of the hives in action to former SPP graduate research assistant Andrea Martin, SPP-CCCC Liaison Anthony Pickard, and me. We were fortunate enough to gear up in the beekeeping suits and look into the hive boxes to see the bees in action (SPP posted photos of this excursion here). I had never been that close to a hive beefore, and I couldn’t beelieve how loud they were!


Here is my brief interview with Officer Epling :

How did you get involved in beekeeping?

I became interested in beekeeping through my Grandfather and my Father. My grandfather started beekeeping about 30 years ago and then my father picked it up when he passed away. After my father passed away I was left with all of this equipment and decided to pick it up. It’s a family tradition.

How does beekeeping contribute to a sustainable environment?

Beekeeping provides pollination for flowers and crops, the pollen that is collected can be used for allergies and other medical needs. The honey that is taken from the bees provides us with many vitamins and nutrients to help heal our bodies. In turn we can make things out of the wax: lip gloss, hand lotions, and candles.

Officer Epling points to a brood.

Officer Epling points to a brood.

Can you explain your beekeeping process at Cedar Creek?

The beekeeping process starts with a new hive that can be built into a sustainable hive that can take care of itself. We start with one box, after they fill it we move to two boxes, at which point it becomes a “Sustainable Colony.”

You just took over the beekeeping program after Vicki Briggs retired; what is your vision for the future of the beekeeping program?

We have a long term vision here at Cedar Creek of starting and getting our hives up to a sustainable level to where they will be able to maintain their own hives and continue the growth of the younger hives to meet the needs of honey production. We also want to maintain the bee activity throughout the prison grounds for the future of our own crops, trees, and flowers.

Officer Epling shows us a slat from one of the bee boxes. He holds the bee tool that was passed down to him from his grandfather.

Officer Epling shows us a slat from one of the bee boxes. He holds the bee tool that was passed down to him from his grandfather.

Do you have any goals for your interaction with SPP?

To share the knowledge that I have and gain knowledge that they may have for me and to work with them to build a sustainable bee program here in the prison systems.

Any other comments you’d like to share?

I’m looking forward to working with Evergreen and the people there to make this program a success. I think it’s important to our environment that this program is successful.

SPP Book Now Available at Evergreen Bookstore and Online!

SPP Book Now Available at Evergreen Bookstore and Online!

The Sustainability in Prisons Project Overview book is now available for sale at the Greener Store on Evergreen’s Olympia campus AND online!

Published in August 2012, the book is an overview of SPP, and gives readers an understanding of our organizational structure and the history of SPP-Washington.  New and potential SPP partners across the country and the world will have the chance to read in detail about our conservation and education programs, successful efforts to reduce waste, evaluation programs, and media coverage of the Project.  Essential reading for anyone interested in developing an SPP, increasing sustainable practices in prisons, and improving communities!


Click here to buy the book from the Greener Store.

Collaboration at Shotwell’s Landing Nursery

By Jaal Mann, Graduate Research Assistant

This past week Shotwell’s Landing hosted visitors from the USFWS, Dr. Karla Drewson and Ted Thomas, and David Hays from WDFW. They admired the more than 100,000 plants for fall plant out and marveled at the amount of seed being cleaned and processed for the restoration of Puget lowland prairies. The site visit also coincided with a work day for the offender technicians. The technicians apprised the visitors of the cultivation techniques for some of the 26 species of native prairie plants grown at Shotwell’s Landing.

Shotwell’s Landing nursery has always been a highly collaborative site for SPP, serving as a hub for seed cleaning, storage, and plant distribution to our many partners.

David Hays (WDFW), Karla Drewson (USFWS), and Ted Thomas (USFWS) discuss Castilleja miniata (giant red Indian paintbrush) plants for prairie propagation.

David Hays (WDFW), Karla Drewson (USFWS), and Ted Thomas (USFWS) discuss Castilleja miniata (giant red Indian paintbrush) plants for prairie propagation.

At the heart of SPP’s work at Shotwell’s Landing lies the partnership between the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) and SPP. CNLM owns the site and manages seed production and cleaning, and SPP manages plant production for both direct planting on the prairies and future seed production. Offender technician crews from Cedar Creek Corrections Center provide essential assistance at Shotwell’s Landing to all partners (as well as at several other prairie restoration sites around the area).

David Hays, land manager for WDFW, shows his enthusiasm for the greatly increased yields of rare Plectritis congesta seed at Shotwell’s Landing nursery. Photos by Jaal Mann.
David Hays, land manager for WDFW, shows his enthusiasm for the greatly increased yields…
...of rare Plectritis congesta seed at Shotwell’s Landing nursery. Photos by Jaal Mann.
…of rare Plectritis congesta seed at Shotwell’s Landing nursery. Photos by Jaal Mann.

Key partners who use plant materials produced and processed at Shotwell’s Landing include the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Ted Thomas and Karla Drewson, USFWS, stopped to discuss the planting of wild Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) with SPP graduate research assistant Drissia Ras and an inmate from Cedar Creek Corrections Center. These plants will be used for planting on prairies in endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly habitat.

Ted Thomas and Karla Drewson, USFWS, stopped to discuss the planting of wild Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) with SPP graduate research assistant Drissia Ras and an inmate from Cedar Creek Corrections Center. These plants will be used for planting on prairies in endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly habitat.

Take Your Child to Work Day at WCCW

by Fiona Edwards, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

A great horned owl feather is passed around for the kids to see.

A great horned owl feather is passed around for the kids to see.

On Wednesday, Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) hosted Take Your Child to Work Day. SPP Graduate Research Assistants Brittany Gallagher, Bri Morningred, and Fiona Edwards joined the festivities.

At the suggestion of Paula Andrew, the Science and Sustainability Lecture Series lead staff member at WCCW, Brittany invited a popular SPP guest lecturer, Lynne Weber from West Sound Wildlife Shelter, back to visit the prison again. Ms. Weber gave a presentation about birds to the kids.  She brought a great horned owl and a turkey vulture, both of which were hugely successful with the audience. Lynne explained how animals ended up in the care of the West Sound Wildlife Shelter, and how important it is to respect wildlife. Many questions were asked, my favorite being: “Will the turkey vulture get its license when it’s 16?”

Lynne Weber from West Sound Wildlife Shelter shows Remington, a turkey vulture, to the audience.

Lynne Weber from West Sound Wildlife Shelter shows Remington, a turkey vulture, to the audience.

Next up, Brittany and Bri did an exercise on the meaning and applications of sustainability, asking the kids to share their experiences with sustainable practices. Then I spoke about the Western pond turtles, which SPP is expecting to care for very soon. I attempted to explain the concept of shell rot (a disease which the turtles suffer from) without gory details, and when I asked how a healthy turtle’s shell is supposed to feel, one audience member told me, “It’s hard like a sandwich.” In the coming year, I’m hoping to get the sick turtles’ shells back to sandwich levels.

The Prison Pet Partnership came out next with two well-trained dogs. They showed the kids how they could help their future owners by flipping on light switches, closing doors, picking up fallen items, grocery shopping, and rolling on their backs so the owner could inspect for anything unusual. One excited audience member asked if the dogs could jump over the table, to which the head of the program replied that the dogs are in fact taught to jump: one of the dogs jumped over a cardboard box and inspired roaring applause.

After lunch, we helped the children color paper Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly wings and told them about the relationship between the Taylor’s checkerspot and the prairie plants. And even though we were not allowed to give away plugs of beautiful Castilleja hispida to those who asked, we had a great time; we hope we get to come back next year!


SPP Crazy Idea Party and Think Tank

By Brittany Gallagher, Graduate Research Assistant

SPP-Washington has grown at an unprecedented rate over the past year.  We have been busier than ever and have doubled the number of graduate students working out of our Evergreen offices.  We have started several new educational and job-training programs, have been the subject of national press attention, have presented at various conferences, and of course, have begun supporting new SPPs springing up across the United States.

There are many moving pieces involved in our operations: new and established partnerships evolve over time, funding sources change, and staff members join and leave the team for a variety of reasons.  This theme of dynamism runs throughout our organization, and may be understood as akin to ecological disturbance.  As in a dynamic and healthy ecosystem, changes in our organization make us stronger and more resilient (see our recent TEDx talk on this theme).

In this period of great growth and change, SPP wanted to pause and throw a little party.  We wanted to take a snapshot and capture the ideas and dreams of the team as it stands in June 2013.  As three SPP graduate research assistants recently finished their Master of Environmental Studies degrees at The Evergreen State College, they will be moving on from their positions with SPP at the end of the summer, making room for new MES students to work with the Project.  And Vicki Briggs, a highly valued staff member at the Department of Corrections, is retiring from her position as the on-site lead for the Oregon spotted frog-rearing program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, welcoming Classification Counselor Anthony Pickard to take over.  This “think tank” or “crazy idea party,” as it came to be called, was our chance to capture the ideas of these folks as they move into or out of formal employment with SPP, as well as for everyone to dream big and think about what we’d all like to see for SPP’s future. 

Along with other innovative ideas, the party's drawing group points out the benefits of sharks with laser beams for prison security.

Along with other innovative ideas, the party’s drawing group points out the benefits of sharks with laser beams for prison security.

We took over a room at Ramblin’ Jacks restaurant in downtown Olympia on a bright Friday evening and enjoyed some silly and serious thinking over hors d’oeuvres.  A “Big Idea Basket” made its way around the room, and participants scribbled their hopes and dreams for SPP on index cards, folding them and placing them in the basket.  Several times throughout the evening, three cards were drawn from the basket and the ideas were read aloud, with applause determining the winner.  Here are a few of the crazy ideas (reworded for clarity and context):

·         By 2020, there should be a prioritized and complete list of endangered species that can be raised in captivity by inmates. The top 5 to 10 of these should be priority conservation projects within corrections facilities.

·         By 2020, prisons should be creating sustainability kits for schools, homes, jails, government offices, college campuses, homes and more!

·         The next move of the SPP should be to provide an overview books to inmates, asking for their thoughts on sustainability programs. The inmates should have a say in what should happen next. 

With the help of some SPP staff who moonlight as thespians, we took a page from theater improv and played the “Yes, and” game.   Ideas generated through this positivity-only activity ranged from SPP expanding into youth rehabilitation centers, inmates finding the cure for colony collapse disorder, and SPP becoming its own degree-granting institution.

SPP co-director Carri LeRoy toasted graduating student Andrea Martin; interim Program Manager Joslyn Trivett toasted graduating student Dennis Aubrey; Program Manager Kelli Bush toasted graduating student Brittany Gallagher, and co-director Dan Pacholke toasted retiring staff member Vicki Briggs.

The final party game allowed folks to pick their own creative skills – theater, drawing, or writing – and join with others with similar talents to create an SPP-themed work of art within about 10 minutes.  The writing group wrote a limerick that went a little like this:

There once was an inmate in prison
Who taught his frogs how to listen
He sucked at compliance
But then he found science
And now he’s no risk for recidivism

The drawing group made a plan of a prison where economic, social, and environmental sustainability could be seen in every element. One of the coolest parts of the plan was that inmates and their families could live together at a prison facility. A school was on the grounds for children, and this also allowed for meaningful activities like gardening to be completed with children and partners.

The group of actors created a skit about the prisons of the future where inmates are partners in groundbreaking scientific research. One of the major accomplishments of prisons was to bring back long extinct species, like dinosaurs.

While at times quite silly, it was a challenging exercise to think really big about the Project. Thinking creatively about how much potential inmates and correctional institutions have to make big changes to the environment and society was empowering and fun. Some of those ideas may seem crazy, but inmates raising frogs and butterflies definitely seemed crazy just five years ago. We can’t wait to see how SPP grows and expands in the next five years!

Crazy Ideas_skit

SPP thespians act out how prisons can contribute to amazing scientific achievements.

SPP Graduate Research Assistants Present Theses

By Fiona Edwards, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

Recently three of SPP’s graduate research assistants completed their Master of Environmental Studies theses and presented their findings to an audience of faculty, peers, and SPP partners. Congratulations to Dennis Aubrey, Brittany Gallagher, and Andrea Martin!

Andrea conducted a study on conservation corps to investigate the long-term influence of these programs on youth participants.


Dennis and Brittany explored topics directly related to their work at SPP.


Dennis’ research showed that the Taylor’s checkerspot significantly preferred the native Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja hispida and Castillega levisecta) over the commonly-known non-native host species (Plantago lanceolata) for oviposition. His finding highlights the synergistic benefits of the SPP butterfly program and the SPP conservation nursery programs that rear the butterfly’s host plants. Dennis’ study will be submitted for publication with two inmate coauthors, who contributed to the research. Mary Linders, the Biologist specializing on the Taylor’s checkerspot at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, also collaborated on the study.


Brittany conducted a statewide evaluation of all SPP work-programs in Washington. Brittany measured  effects of employment in SPP programs on inmate environmental attitudes. The literature in environmental and social psychology suggests that pro-environmental behavior is correlated with pro-social behavior, and the criminology literature suggests a correlation between pro-social attitudes and parole success. With Likert-scale and open-ended questions, 293 inmates filled out Brittany’s questionnaires. She found that inmates whose jobs involved more education and training, more work with living things, and more opportunities for community contribution (as SPP work programs do) expressed more pro-environmental attitudes. Simply stated: employment in SPP programs is correlated with more pro-environmental attitudes.

SPP has been so fortunate to work with these outstanding students. We can’t wait to see what great things Dennis, Brittany, and Andrea will do next.

Dennis Aubrey presents his results.

Dennis Aubrey presents his results.

Spring Showers Bring Prairie Flowers

By Fiona Edwards, Graduate Research Assistant


A bumblebee visits large blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) and sea pink (Plectritus congesta). Photo by Jaal Mann.

Several Fridays ago, SPP hosted a Prairie Tour at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in order to share the rare landscape with WDOC and TESC partners. Jim Lynch, Field Biologist for the Fort Lewis Fish and Wildlife Program, led us to two different prairie sites where he explained the importance of maintaining these nearly nonexistent ecosystems.

Jim began the tour by explaining that JBLM has one of the largest last remaining prairies in Washington because it is constantly lit on fire both by military exercises and prescribed burns. Controlled burns are an important ecological function in prairie habitats and were used centuries ago by Native Americans for agricultural purposes. Without these fires, Douglas fir trees and other invasive species (such as Scotch broom) would take over the prairies. Jim stressed the importance of maintaining prairie ecosystems for its endemic species–species that are found nowhere else. The JBLM prairies are home to the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, Mazama pocket gopher, and Streaked horn lark, all of which will soon be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Jim showed us the recent outplantings from SPP conservation nursery production. The native plantings are crucial to maintaining prairie biodiversity. Furthermore, these plants are key to the Taylor’s checkerspot’s survival, as they rely on them for food and shelter.

The tour not only revealed the integral connection between the conservation nursery and the butterfly-rearing program, but between the partners that were present. The work that the conservation and butterfly-rearing crews accomplish in the prisons manifests on the prairies at JBLM. Members of SPP, WDOC, and Evergreen witnessed this complex process during the Prairie Tour, and we were all reminded of the invaluable collaboration required to achieve such a feat. I look forward to the next trip out to the JBLM prairies.

SPP's Carl Elliott shows Drissia Ras, Julie Vanneste, Eric Heinitz, and Fiona Edwards lomatium (Lomatium utriculatum). Photo by Jaal Mann.

SPP’s Carl Elliott shows lomatium (Lomatium utriculatum) to Drissia Ras, Julie Vanneste, Eric Heinitz, and Fiona Edwards. Photo by Jaal Mann.

WDOC Videographer William C. Mader shoots in an oak woodland prairie. Photo by Jaal Mann.

WDOC Videographer William C. Mader shoots in an oak woodland prairie. Photo by Jaal Mann.


Filmmaker visits two prisons

By Joslyn Rose Trivett

Photo by Rosemarie Padovano titled "Nocturne." (source:

Photo by Rosemarie Padovano titled “Nocturne.” (source:

Last week, New York visual artist and filmmaker Rosemarie Padovano visited Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) and Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW).  She contacted the Sustainability in Prisons Project after finding our website, and we welcomed her interest in filming inmates at their work in SPP conservation programs.

The video sessions were very gratifying. Ms. Padovano brought high levels of curiosity, respect, and openness to her work. Unlike videographers whom we’ve worked with previously, her focus was on creating artwork. She worked to capture the visual impact and beauty of interactions between technician, plants, and butterflies. She was particularly interested in revealing the ”profound nature of transformation” as seen at SPP.

We are grateful for Ms. Padovano’s attention, and for the willingness of staff and inmates who worked with her. She may return in the summer for more days of filming, and we will certainly share the final product on our website when it is available.

See an example of Rosemarie Padovano’s work at, and visit her website:

Conservation and Service from a Member of the Prairie Crew

Poem by Michael Brown

Introduction by Carl Elliott, SPP Conservation and Restoration Coordinator

While working with the dedicated prairie crew from CCCC, the spring quickly blows by and work is often performed in hints of hot summer weather. The crew has ably taken on a wide range of tasks on the prairies, and at the conservation nursery and seed production farm. Staff from WDFW, WDNR, SPP and CNLM have been enjoying sharing information and skills. The work presents a steep learning curve in botany, ecology and nursery production. Not only has the crew been learning skills, also the work for conservation and service to ecological restoration has inspired one technician to create poems about service and restoration of Earth’s ecosystems:


Cat Program at WSP Has Staff & Inmates Smiling, Cats Purring

By Marina House, DOC Staff at the Washington State PenitentiaryCat Pictures 016-1

I just wanted to share my observations concerning the success of the cat program.  When we found out we were getting the cat program I was mildly hopeful because I had been involved with equine assisted therapy for at risk kids and their families, so I’m aware first hand that animals have beneficial effects on people, but I had no real hope it would be this successful.

I have seen inmates who have NEVER interacted with staff or other inmates now joking and smiling. I have seen inmates who would normally fight walk away to avoid trouble.  The unit is calmer and far more peaceful than before.  There is lots more positive social interaction in the dayrooms now. It’s very nice to have a program that so easily promotes pro-social behavior.  I am very much in favor of any program that makes our jobs easier and safer, and this kitten program does both.

How about some bottle fed puppies now for B Mod?

Copy of Cat Pictures 021