Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ideas Worth Spreading: “Turning Keys” in a Washington prison

By Kelli Bush, SPP Program Manager

On March 15, 2014 Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington will host a TEDx event. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design; it’s is a non-profit organization committed to sharing “ideas worth spreading” through lectures. TEDx talks are held at locations around the world. The event at Monroe will feature presentations from inmates, corrections staff, and community members. The theme of the event is “Turning Keys,” which will describe how many small and relatively quick changes can result in significant positive outcomes in the corrections system.

Turning Keys 2There will be two talks featuring SPP’s programs. Dr. Carri LeRoy, Co-Director of SPP and Evergreen faculty member, will present on the transformative qualities of SPP programs and Mr. Nick Hacheney will highlight his experience as an inmate managing the vermicomposting program at Monroe Corrections Complex. Mr. Dan Pacholke, Co-Director of SPP and Assistant Secretary of WA Dept. of Corrections, will present on how small changes can alter the future of prisons.

Over the past several weeks SPP staff have assisted with preparation for all three talks. The talks are presented without notes and require lots of practice and polishing along the way.  Mr. Hacheney and another inmate have been preparing a beautiful CD Rom that will include a wealth of information about the vermicomposting program and SPP. The CD will be available to audience members at the presentation. Space to attend the live presentation is extremely limited, but the event will be recorded and available for viewing online—we will be sure to share that video as soon as it is available!

SPP’s TEDx presenters

Dr. Carri LeRoy

Dr. Carri LeRoy (right), faculty at The Evergreen State College and Co-Director of SPP, prepares for a talk at SPP's ten year celebration. Photo by Dani Winder.

Dr. Carri LeRoy (right), faculty at The Evergreen State College and Co-Director of SPP, prepares for a talk at SPP’s ten year celebration. Photo by Dani Winder.

Mr. Dan Pacholke

Dan Pacholke, Assistant Secretary for Washington Dept. of Corrections and SPP Co-Director, talks with Lyle Morse, Director of Correctional Industries, at the SPP National Conference in 2012. Photo by SPP staff.

Dan Pacholke (right), Assistant Secretary for Washington Dept. of Corrections and SPP Co-Director, talks with Lyle Morse, Director of Correctional Industries, at the SPP National Conference in 2012. Photo by SPP staff.

Mr. Nick Hacheney

Nick Hacheney, lead worm farmer at Monroe Correctional Complex, discusses methods with SPP Program Manager, Kelli Bush. The worm farm is amazingly clean and sweet-smelling; it only smells of food waste for a few hours a week, right after it has been put into the vermicomposting bins. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Nick Hacheney, lead worm farmer at Monroe Correctional Complex, discusses methods with SPP Program Manager, Kelli Bush. The worm farm is amazingly clean and sweet-smelling; it only smells of food waste for a few hours a week, right after the food has been put into the vermicomposting bins. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Worm breeder bins at Monroe Correctional Complex were constructed from re-used mattress parts; the worms live and breed in "Select Comfort"! Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Worm breeder bins at Monroe Correctional Complex were constructed from re-used mattress parts; the worms live and breed in “Select Comfort”! Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

The Great Unknowns

By Carl Elliott, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager

An SPP technician uses a hand lens to examine signs of insect damage on a plant grown in the nursery. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

An SPP technician uses a hand lens to examine signs of insect damage on a plant grown in the nursery. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

The cultivation of native plant material in a nursery is fraught with unknowns. Wild-collected and farm-raised seed often have erratic germination requirements and germination percentages from year to year. The year’s weather, seed collection times, and how seeds are cleaned and handled all can affect how the native plants grow.

Unknown conditions

Our wild seed collectors work carefully to reduce variables in timing, handling, and storage. They diligently follow protocols for every step in the process. But often variable summer weather plays a paramount role in defining seed quality, and that’s a factor no one can control. In 2013, spring rains gradually tapered off to bring a bright and warm July and August and provided a large crop of summer seeds; however, in early September rain made late-season seed collection difficult. We shall see in 2014 how the late summer ripeners, members of the Aster family (Solidago and Symphyotrichum species), germinate this spring.

Unknown water needs

Additionally, cultivating summer-dormant plants in containers poses establishment and survival challenges. A number of the plants we cultivate grow actively in the spring, but when the hot weather of summer arrives they go dormant. Leaves die back and small feeder roots slough off. The challenge is to keep the plants alive until planting time in the fall: too much water and the storage roots will rot; too little water and the plants dry up entirely. It is a careful balancing act until the plants wake up with September’s cool weather.

Offender Technicians examining nursery plants to identify insect pests. Photo by Jaal Mann.

Since 2009, SPP’s nurseries have built up a bank of knowledge and proficiency in prairie seed ecology and cultivation. To disseminate the knowledge, we hold seed ecology workshops at each nursery with the full crew of offender technicians. Graduate students present the workshops from a manual on the propagation protocols for each species cultivated. Our shared proficiency has yielded increased plug production at all three of our nurseries.

A workshop on the cultivation of harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida). Photo by Benj Drummond and Sarah Joy Steele.

A workshop on the cultivation of harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida). Photo by Benj Drummond and Sarah Joy Steele.

Unknown species

The same workshops also introduce plants for which we have no known protocol. The student describes the plant from seed, to active growth, flowering, and back to seed. The group investigates the ecological role for that plant on the prairies referring to primary research from the literature and field. Then, the technicians perform observations and measurements necessary to develop a draft protocol, and craft descriptions, weights and measures of the seed. Finally, SPP involves the technicians in scientific testing of the draft protocol. An example of a protocol under development is for a rare native plant of the Puget lowland prairies, Packera macounii.

Packera macounii. Photo by Keir Morse, Cal photos.

In the last five years, we have fully developed protocols for 37 native prairie species using this approach. In collaboration with our partners at the Center for Natural Lands and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, we are actively researching another 37 species to add to our diverse suite of plants for prairie restoration.

Photo Gallery from Roots of Success Graduation at Stafford Creek Corrections Center

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

“The program is called Roots of Success, but it feels like the course is a seed planted in our minds.”

“We have a disposable planet and disposable people and we have got to change how we do things. The challenge doesn’t end here; we’ve got to make those changes in the wider society.”

“It’s a platform for giving back to the community.”

This is what I heard from inmate students and instructors who spoke about what they valued from participating in Roots of Success, an environmental literacy curriculum. It was a happy occasion at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC), celebrating the thirty-five graduates from two complete sessions of Roots. SCCC offered the class at maximum speed: three times a week for ten weeks, and again on the weekend to make up any missed modules; as SPP Liaison Chris Idso said, that’s just how SCCC likes to do things. That’s also what makes them a national leader in corrections’ sustainability programming.

Superintendent of Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) speaks to the graduating class from two sessions of Roots of Success.

Superintendent of Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) speaks to the graduating class from two sessions of Roots of Success.

 

At SCCC, Roots of Success has been taught by three inmate instructors. All three are veterans of the prison's Redemptions class, an inmate-led program on self awareness, positive thinking, and communication skills. All corrections staff and graduates present for graduation day sung their praises as Roots instructors, and the next session of Roots of Success is already fully enrolled.

At SCCC, Roots of Success is taught by three inmate instructors (from left to right: David DuHaime, Grady Mitchell, and Cyril Walrond). All three are veterans of the prison’s Redemptions class, an inmate-led program on self awareness, positive thinking, and communication skills. Corrections staff and graduates present for graduation day applauded their talents as Roots instructors, and the next session of Roots of Success is already fully enrolled.

 

One of the inmate-instructors speaks about what the curriculum and class experience meant to him.

Instructor Cyril Walrond speaks about what the curriculum and class experience meant to him.

 

The graduating class for Roots of Success.

The graduating class listens to a presentation from one of their peers.

 

Another of the inmate instructors addresses the graduating class.

Instructor Grady Mitchell addresses the graduating class.

 

The class watches the 2009 video on SPP, a gorgeous piece by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele that included video and many images from SCCC--including corrections staff who were in the room while it played. It was gratifying and surreal to watch it with an inmate audience.

The class watches the 2009 video on SPP, a gorgeous piece by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele that included video and many images from SCCC–including corrections staff who were in the room while it played. It was gratifying and surreal to watch it with an inmate audience.

 

Robert Aleksinski (or "Ski") is the staff member who has championed Roots of Success at SCCC. He volunteered to be a student in the first session of Roots, and was graduating along with the other 34 inmate students. His enthusiasm for the curriculum and the way they've offered it at SCCC was infectious.

Robert Aleksinski (“Ski”) is the staff member who has championed Roots of Success at SCCC. He volunteered to be a student in the first session of Roots, and was graduating along with the other 34 inmate students. His enthusiasm for the curriculum and the way they’ve offered it at SCCC is infectious.

 

Thirty five graduates of Roots of Success receive their certificates and handshakes from Mr. Aleksinski, the three inmate instructors, Superintendent Glebe, SPP Liaison Chris Idso, and SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator for SCCC Drissia Ras.

Thirty five graduates of Roots of Success receive their certificates and handshakes from Mr. Aleksinski, Instructor Mitchell, Instructor Walrond, Instructor DuHaime, Superintendent Glebe, SPP Liaison Chris Idso, and SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator for SCCC Drissia Ras.

 

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Be an SPP partner

It is the biggest week for giving in the United States. As you are opening your huge hearts, we ask you to choose SPP for your end-of-the-year donations.

Our core value is partnerships with multiple benefits, and we strive to maximize the positives for everyone involved. That includes you!

Participants of the first national meeting for SPP on tour at Cedar Creek Corrections Center; here they are visiting the Oregon spotted frog rearing program. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Participants of the first national meeting for SPP on tour at Cedar Creek Corrections Center; here they are visiting the Oregon spotted frog rearing program. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

SPP programs have proven to be models of sustainability on multiple levels: socially, economically, and environmentally. The success of our programs has brought daily contacts from folks across the state, country, and around the world who want SPP programming where they live. We need more staff to help them get started—to develop and deliver trainings, help them find partners, and stay connected so that we can all learn from each other.

A dog trainer in the Prison Pet Partnership at Washington Corrections Center for Women shares a blissful moment with her trainee. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steel.

A dog trainer in the Prison Pet Partnership program at Washington Corrections Center for Women shares a blissful moment with her trainee. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

SPP is all about partnership, and we want you as a partner. Join us in bringing new educational and environmental programs to the incarcerated: you can help us raise frogs, grow vegetables for prison menus and food banks, train service dogs, and raise bees, and all while reducing our ecological footprint.

To donate to SPP, use this link. Thank you and have a wonderful new year. We will see you again in 2014!

SPP Graduate Research Assistant Brittany Gallagher helps an Oregon spotted frog take its first leap into the wild. Photo by Matthew Williams of the New York Times.

SPP Graduate Research Assistant Brittany Gallagher helps an Oregon spotted frog take its first leap into the wild. Photo by Matthew Williams of the New York Times.

Beekeeping Behind Bars

Beekeeping Behind Bars

By Tiffany Webb, SPP Education and Evaluation Coordinator

This fall, inmates gathered with enthusiastic faces for a presentation from the Olympia Beekeeper’s Association. The presentation was hosted by Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) as part of the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series. Renzy and Laurie of the Olympia Beekeeper’s Association covered bee behavior, needs, habitats, a beginner lesson on beekeeping, and how to become a certified beekeeper in Washington.

David Supensky, Olympia Beekeeper’s Association, describes to inmates how bees form detailed structures.

Renzy Davenport, Olympia Beekeeper’s Association, describes to inmates how bees form detailed structures.

Many of the inmates in attendance have the opportunity to work directly with bees, as SCCC houses thousands of bees in three hives. Because of their opportunity for direct experience with beekeeping, inmates showed enthusiasm and energy for the lecture, and offered an incredible assortment of questions for the beekeeping experts.

Housing for bee boxes at Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

Housing for bee boxes at Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

Following the lecture, Renzy and Laurie met with Chris Idso, the SPP liaison at SCCC, and other DOC staff and inmates who are involved with beekeeping. The experts guided the group’s work to reorganize and improve the structures of the prison’s bee boxes. After more than an hour, the beekeepers answered final questions and departed from Stafford Creek Corrections Center, leaving an abundance of useful information on beekeeping for inmates and staff alike.

Claudia Supensky, Olympia Beekeeper’s Associate, talks with inmates about beekeeping practices at SCCC.

Laurie Pyne, Olympia Beekeeper’s Association, talks with inmates about beekeeping practices at SCCC.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project and WDOC staff at Stafford Creek are working with the Olympia Beekeeper’s Association to implement a beekeeper certification program at the prison. Inmates wait eagerly for the opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge associated with beekeeping that they will be able to take with them upon release. For many, this is a chance to learn a useful skill while behind bars, and develop an affinity for environmentally relevant work.

Olympia Beekeeper's Association shows inmates the best ways to organize the hive.

Olympia Beekeeper’s Association shows inmates the best ways to organize the hive.

Check out the Olympia Beekeeper’s Association HERE.

The Smell of Hope

Written in November, 2012 by compost-technician and inmate at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Deep within each human being there lies an enigmatic force, or power, if you will. This power lies dormant until activated by something unique to each individual. Children often have this force brought to life by their parents, a role model, or teacher. What is this spark that can change the course of a young life? What can motivate someone to fly to the moon? What can cause dreams to become reality? What can make an incarcerated person believe in a bright future? One word: HOPE! Unfortunately, this fuel of dreams is rare, to say the least, in the place where these words originate. You see, I write from behind the fences of a Correctional Facility. I am one of the truly fortunate ones, however, for this power I write of was brought to life in me by a visitor. The irony is that the person who instilled hope in me is most assuredly unaware of the gift they gave me. Let me explain.

During a tour of the SPP national conference, the author demonstrates sifting compost at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, September, 2012. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

During a tour of the SPP national conference, the author demonstrates sifting compost at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, September, 2012. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

I was invited to attend my first Live Green, Learn Green lecture at Stafford Creek Correction Center approximately four and a half years ago. Dr. Nadkarni from The Evergreen State College came to Stafford Creek to speak. I don’t remember much of the content of that first lecture, what I do remember was that the good Doctor brought pine bows with her and placed them at each table. While pine bows might seem a bit insignificant to people who are not incarcerated, their significance increases a hundred-fold if you have been living in a concrete house for a decade. I found myself inhaling the sweet fragrance of pine that took me back to a better time. I am a native of the Pacific Northwest, so of course pine has the smell of memories clothed in innocence and nature that have always held a special attraction for me. I still find it amazing that an odor can inspire, and a simple touch of something from nature can bring to life something in me that had lay dormant for far too long.

Another photo of the author from a tour of the SPP national conference in September, 2012. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Another photo of the author from a tour of the SPP national conference in September, 2012. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

After that first lecture, I attended nearly thirty-six more lectures on various topics. I learned about butterflies, birds, bats, riparian areas, forest canopies, bears, salmon, and my absolute favorite, Apis mellifera (honey bees). The foregoing is not a comprehensive list, but a smattering of the gifts given to me by The Evergreen State College and the many fine people that brought the lecture series to the concrete habitat I lived in.

I don’t want to be misunderstood when I make this reference to concrete. I made my bed and I certainly must sleep in it. My point is that in prison there is a lack of things of nature. So, as I sat in the lectures, I became more and more interested and looked forward to the day when I could be actively involved in things green.

After approximately one year of attending the lecture, I was introduced to a young man by the name of Sam Hapke who was an entomologist from The Evergreen State College. Mr. Hapke taught me and several other inmates the wonderful art of beekeeping. I was previously afraid of bees, so it was with much trepidation that I forged ahead and gained an appreciation, no a love, for these wonderful and oh so necessary creatures. I studied the literature and paid close attention to Sam’s teaching and soon found myself as the sole inmate tasked with caring for the bees at Stafford Creek Correction Center. I love bees and plan to be actively involved with them in some capacity upon my eventual release.

Entomologist Sam Hapke from The Evergreen State College works with an inmate technician in the beekeeping programming at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo from 2009 by Benj Drummond.

Entomologist Sam Hapke from The Evergreen State College works with an inmate technician in the beekeeping programming at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo from 2009 by Benj Drummond.

I have left Stafford Creek and am now at Cedar Creek Correction Center, a minimum security camp. I am currently working in the garden and composting area of the camp and am actively involved with sustainability. I have been fortunate enough to be involved in several tours for the public, including people from Paris, New York, and Washington D.C., as well as many folks from the legislature here in the state of Washington. I don’t believe any of this would be possible had it not been for the sweet smell of that pine bow so long ago. Thanks Doc!

As the author says, smelling something green can be a rare delight for those incarcerated; this image from a 2012 lecture at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

As the author says, smelling something green can be a rare delight for those incarcerated; this image from a 2012 lecture at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to all the people who gave their time; that myself and others not only learned of sustainability, but actually felt like we could become contributors to our communities and the world as a whole. The future seems brighter than it has most of my life. I have a new found and lasting respect for this planet I live on. I understand more than ever that I am a steward charged with the care and sustainability of wherever my feet touch. I cannot go backwards for I am also tasked with sustaining the hope that was instilled in me.

And Then There Were Three: Third Hoop House Complete at Washington Corrections Center for Women

By Bri Morningred, SPP Graduate Research Assistant and Washington Corrections Center for Women Conservation Nursery Coordinator

This third hoop house at WCCW differs from the first two in that it does not have doors; this will allow us to grow plants who like things a little colder.

The third hoop house at WCCW differs from the first two in that it does not have doors; this will allow us to grow plants who like things a little colder.

At long last the third hoop house in SPP’s conservation nursery at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) is complete! There they stand, all in a row, ready to shelter the upcoming rounds of sowing and hard work that the WCCW crew will complete. As I started with SPP after the first two hoop houses were already constructed, it was an amazing experience getting to see one built from the ground up—literally!

It all begins with marking the space where the hoop house is supposed to go, measuring the width of the poles and their spacing from each other, and marking everything with spray paint or tape. Next comes the hole-digging. This is a really difficult task but the WCCW crew made it look like a piece of cake. 🙂

Once the holes are dug, cement is poured into the holes, the base poles are set into the cement and left to harden. Further construction can’t happen until those poles set otherwise everything will tip over! Next comes attaching the frame to the supporting poles—here’s the cool part—and these frames and all the pieces to connect them are created at Stafford Creek Corrections Center! A very cool part of the partnership to get these hoop houses built, I think.

Once the frame is attached, boards are attached horizontally along the lower sides of the houses as base-boards for the wire lock track (I’ll get to that part in a minute). To do that, and to attach the wire lock track to the rest of the metal frame, we actually had to drill holes into the metal—a feat I had no idea was even possible until this project. The track for the wire lock is a groove that the wire lock (or wiggle-wire 😉 ) fits into; this holds the plastic in place without ripping it. With the wire lock tracks in place, now we can unroll and place the plastic. This was the most difficult part as the plastic is in a giant roll which is insanely heavy, and has to be hoisted up above the frame and unrolled little by little. Once again, the crew made it look so easy! After that, all that was left to do was to trim the plastic, attach it to the frame with the wiggle-wire, and lay the black ground cloth inside the hoop house and TA-DA third hoop house done!

Unlike the first two hoop houses, this one will not have doors on either end; it will be open in order to accommodate those plants that prefer to be more cold than warm throughout the growing season. After a very successful first sowing season at WCCW, we are excited to grow additional prairie plant species in this new hoop house in the coming season. We will keep you posted—thanks for tuning in!

The three hoops houses at WCCW lined up in the dawn sunlight--they will be supporting over 10 species of native prairie plants through the next sowing season.

The three hoops houses at WCCW lined up in the dawn sunlight–they will be supporting over 10 species of native prairie plants through the next sowing season.

Thanks to Joint Base Lewis-McChord for funding construction of the third hoop house.

Cheers,

Bri

 

Cedar Creek’s Roots of Success Graduation

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

November4th, 2013, I had the pleasure of attending the first Roots of Success graduation ceremony at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC). Roots of Success is an environmental literacy curriculum recommended to us by Ohio corrections, and this year we are piloting the program at four corrections facilities: Correctional Industries, Stafford Creek Corrections Center, Washington State Penitentiary, and CCCC. Correctional Industries (CI) has funded and led program implementation. Special thanks to them, especially to Lucienne Banning and Michael Colwell of CI, for making the program possible.

Superintendent of CCCC, Douglas Cole, discusses the merits of Roots of Success with the graduating class. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Superintendent of CCCC, Douglas Cole, discusses the merits of Roots of Success with the graduating class. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

The ceremony took place in the visiting room, still abundantly decorated for Halloween. The ceremony began with Superintendent Douglas Cole asking the class what they had learned in Roots of Success. The inmates detailed their new knowledge, and also spoke of the general importance of environmental literacy. One said, “This class has taught me the language of right now.” Another felt similarly lucky; he smiled as he said, “I feel like I’m buying Microsoft stock in 1982.”

Two Roots graduates read a speech by Chief Seattle to the class. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Two Roots graduates read a speech by Chief Seattle to the class. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Two inmates from western Washington native tribes read a speech from Chief Seattle, and the reading was received with reverence and appreciation. One of the presenters said that he considered earlier technologies of this culture to be the “messier kind;” newer technologies, such as they had learned about in Roots of Success, are providing a way to connect back to nature.

A Roots graduate receives his congratulations from Superintendent Cole. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

A Roots graduate receives his congratulations from Superintendent Cole. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

One of the Roots graduates reads his graduation certificate. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

One of the Roots graduates reads his graduation certificate. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

The inmate students received their certificates to applause. We also acknowledged the two inmate instructors, and the SPP Graduate Research Assistant who has worked on Roots, Rachel Stendahl.

Guest speaker Aimee Christie from the Pacific Shellfish Institute describing CCCC's participation in a water quality improvement program in southern Puget Sound. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Guest speaker Aimee Christie from the Pacific Shellfish Institute describing CCCC’s participation in a water quality improvement program in southern Puget Sound. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Finally, a guest speaker, Aimee Christie from the Pacific Shellfish Institute, described how mussels are being used for nitrogen sequestration in southern Puget Sound. CCCC recently accepted about 2000 lbs of harvested mussels from the Institute and will process them in the prison’s new composting system.

Roots of Success 2013 graduating class at CCCC. The women on the left are both Roots instructors: Rita Reynoldson, a corrections staff member, and Lucienne Banning, Offender Workforce Development Specialist for CI. The woman on the right is Rachel Stendahl, the SPP Graduate Research Assistant  who has coordinated Roots for Washington Department of Corrections. Photo by CI staff.

Roots of Success 2013 graduating class at CCCC. The women on the left are both Roots instructors: Rita Reynoldson, a corrections staff member, and Lucienne Banning, Offender Workforce Development Specialist for CI. The woman on the right is Rachel Stendahl, the SPP Graduate Research Assistant who has coordinated Roots for Washington Department of Corrections. Photo by CI staff.

I missed the cake and ice cream, and still I can say it was a wonderful event! I look forward to many more Roots graduations to come.

 

SPP needs funding to sustain our education programming: to donate, please visit our page at the Evergreen Foundation.

 

The Wonders of In-Vessel Composting at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

In the short time that Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) has had their new in-vessel composter operational, I have heard many great things about it. In early November, I had the chance to see the composter in action and be further thrilled by its capabilities.

The new in-vessel composter at CCCC. This is the back end of the drum, and finished compost is falling onto the conveyor ramp that takes it to a holding pile.

The new in-vessel composter at CCCC. This is the back end of the drum, and finished compost is falling onto the conveyor ramp that takes it to a holding pile.

The morning I visited they had added 1000 lbs of food waste to the front end of the drum. The drum’s rotation is sufficient to move the material along, so that if you looked at the drum in cross-section you would see the progression from fresh waste to finished compost along its length. Eric Heinitz, Environmental Specialist for Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC), showed me the metal markers used to ensure that inputs of material have a residence time of at least the 14 days; the first marker was dated and put in the drum 2 ½ weeks ago, and has not yet showed up in the finished product—a promising sign that the composter is working as it should.

Eric Heinitz, Environmental Specialist for WDOC, showing a metal marker used to determine compost's residence-time in the composting drum.

Eric Heinitz, Environmental Specialist for WDOC, showing a metal marker used to determine compost’s residence-time in the composting drum.

One of the inmate technicians has become especially proficient at operating and servicing the drum composter; he has been able to fix operational problems as they arise. The system’s manufacturer has requested that he get in touch with the business post-release, because they want to put his talents to work as an employee.

An inmate technician for CCCC's large-scale composting program was pleased to pose with the new machine.

An inmate technician for CCCC’s large-scale composting program was pleased to pose with the new machine.

Vermicomposting continues at CCCC’s small-scale composting area, a longtime highlight of SPP tours. With the new large-scale composter, plus their intensive recycling program, CCCC is cancelling its regular contract with the solid waste collector, Lemay, Inc. The prison is processing more than 95% of their solid waste on site!

Internship with SPP

By Erica Turnbull, SPP Summer Intern

Spending 11 weeks working in prison might not sound appealing to everyone but as a Rehabilitation and Social Justice major at Western Washington University, I could not have been more excited to be accepted by the SPP team as their summer intern.

Starting my internship with an overview of SPP, I was invited to visit and participate in programs at four prisons (Stafford Creek, Cedar Creek, Mission Creek, and Washington Corrections Center for Women). In time, most of my volunteer work took place at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) and Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC).

Inmates participating in the educational lecture held at SCCC. Photo by Erica Turnbull.

SCCC holds educational lecture once a month with guest speakers. At the lectures, inmates can learn about sustainability and have time for Q&A with the presenter. I made educational handouts for the inmates to take with them and helped do data entry to track program success and inmates’ environmental interest. Also at SCCC, SPP Graduate Research Assistant, Drissia Ras, and I worked in the greenhouses where inmates are growing endangered native prairie plants. Once a week we spent a day counting germination successes, controlling pests, and maintaining the plants as they transition through their life cycle.

At CCCC I took over the gardening project from Sophie Hart, a former SPP volunteer. I enjoyed tremendous help from recent Evergreen Environmental Studies graduate Katie Wolt. Together we helped the inmates compile seasonal crop lists, talked about the importance of crop rotation to replenish soil nutrients, and planted flowers with natural healing properties that double as pest controls by attracting natural predators to control the overabundant aphid population. Our biggest project was collaborating with the inmates to start amending the soil in the newly established orchard.

Vegetable garden at CCCC. Photo by Erica Turnbull.

Also I was invited by staff to participate in the Roots of Success program with SPP Graduate Research Assistant Rachel Stendahl and Correctional Industries’ Lucienne Guyot. It was great to see the gardening crews in a classroom setting where we could talk about job skills development and planning for re-entry.

I was also cordially invited to attend the Redemption Program; a safe place for inmates to share their past, set goals for the future, and help each other develop and achieve positive change within them.

Two inmates on the gardening crew at CCCC, taking a break from amending the soil in the prison’s orchard. Photo by Erica Turnbull.

I have noticed that a number of inmates are very passionate about self-betterment and helping others succeed as well. Several inmates have spent the majority of their adult lives in prison. From what I have observed, punishment t

hrough incarceration does not appear to have as much positive and lasting impact on inmates as programs, opportunities, and the encouragement of others. A positive and safe context allows inmates to understand how past actions led them to where they are now and what changes they can make to grow and move forward. Personal growth allows them to create productive goals and foster hope in themselves and others.

Developing trust through consistency is also important. Inmates needed to know they could rely on me to come when I said I would, order project supplies, etc. Spending just a few hours with the inmates every week lets them know someone cares and is as dedicated to the projects as they are. The inmates I worked with value interactions with people from outside the gates. They also value working outdoors with nature; I heard several inmates express the hope and tranquility it brings.