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Washington Corrections Center for Women Celebrates its SPP programs

by Bri Morningred, SPP Graduate Research Assistant and SPP Coordinator for Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) conservation nursery
photos by Shauna Bittle

Heading out for a tour of SPP programs, passing the gorgeous gardens at WCCW

Heading out for a tour of SPP programs, passing the gorgeous gardens at WCCW

It was a beautiful day in Gig Harbor, WA, perfect for the celebration of the amazing sustainability programs at Washington Correction Center for Women (WCCW). We had prepared for the celebration for months, and it was gratifying to share with partners and the public the many contributions offenders have made to a sustainable prison community.

Restoration and Conservation Coordinator Carl Elliott describes the SPP conservation nursery program at WCCW

Restoration and Conservation Coordinator Carl Elliott describes the SPP conservation nursery program at WCCW

The tour began with introductions from the superintendent of WCCW, Jane Parnell, and from Carri LeRoy and Carl Elliott of SPP. The tour’s first stop was the Conservation Nursery hoop houses at the minimum security campus. Attendees had a chance to watch the conservation nursery crew at work, walk through the carpet of Indian paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) that was beautifully in bloom, and speak with the SPP staff and offender technicians about the conservation nursery program.

Outside and inside of one of the hoop houses in the conservation nursery

Outside and inside of one of the hoop houses in the conservation nursery

Scott Skaggs, Construction and Maintenance Project Supervisor and WCCW manager of the conservation nursery crew, examines a plant showing signs of insect damage

Scott Skaggs, Construction and Maintenance Project Supervisor and WCCW manager of the conservation nursery crew, demonstrates monitoring for insect damage on Indian paintbrush

SPP Graduate Research Assistant Bri Morningred enjoys a moment of success with an inmate technician in the conservation nursery

SPP Graduate Research Assistant Bri Morningred enjoys a high five with an offender technician in the conservation nursery

Indian paintbrush (Castilleja species) thriving in the conservation nursery

Indian paintbrush thriving in the conservation nursery

Next up was the community gardens on the way to medium security campus. This leg of the tour was led by Ed Tharp, who runs the Horticulture Program at WCCW. These gardens are in the courtyard area of the minimum security campus and grow a variety of foods that are harvested for the prison’s kitchen.

Ed Tharp, x Community College, runs the horticultural program at WCCW

Ed Tharp, Tacoma Community College, runs the horticultural program at WCCW

The final tour stop was in the concrete courtyard of the medium security campus. Located next to the education building—which houses the horticulture classroom, the floral program, and many other wonderful educational programs—there are various garden beds  growing onions, garlic, and strawberries.

Enjoying the strawberry beds at WCCW

Enjoying the strawberry beds at WCCW

Assistant Superintendent for WCCW David Flynn, the champion of many SPP programs for the facility, talks to the group about recent activities

Assistant Superintendent for WCCW David Flynn, the champion of many SPP programs for the facility, talks to the group about recent activities

Audrey Lamb, Conservation Assistant at the Center for Natural Lands Management, regards gardens in the close custody area of WCCW

The tour visits gardens in the close custody area of WCCW; Audrey Lamb, Conservation Assistant at the Center for Natural Lands Management, in the foreground

We ended with a poster session and awards ceremony in the gymnasium.  We ate prison-grown salad and strawberries and cupcakes decorated with prairie flowers. Attendees toured  informational tables for many of the sustainable programs at WCCW, including the Prison Pet Partnership Program, Mother Earth Farms, the Horticulture Program, Food Services, the Recycling Program, Sustainability in Prisons Project, and Center for Natural Lands Management.

SPP's Carl Elliott receives prison-grown salad at the poster session

SPP’s Carl Elliott receives fresh garden salad at the poster session

Melissa Johnson (?), publicity and outreach for WCCW, admires the horticultural program display at the poster session

Melissa Johnson, publicity and outreach for WCCW, admires the horticultural program display at the poster session

Best cupcakes ever! Bri Morningred and x bakery collaborated to produce native plant-decorated cupcakes for the celebration. They also tasted great!

Best cupcakes ever! SPP’s Bri Morningred collaborated with a local bakery to produce native plant-decorated cupcakes for the celebration. They also tasted great!

Jane Parnell, Superintendent of WCCW, presents an inmate technician with a certificate of appreciation at an awards ceremony

Jane Parnell, Superintendent of WCCW, presents an offender technician with a certificate of appreciation at an awards ceremony

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An offender technician on the conservation nursery crew shows a certificate of appreciation recognizing her dedication to the program

It was wonderful to get to recognize the amazing things happening at WCCW. The prisons community is  taking great strides toward sustainable living and it is inspiring to work with them towards that goal.

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!

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

Butterflies from MCCCW released with the help of Attorney General’s office attorneys

By Graduate Research Assistants Dennis Aubrey, Fiona Edwards, and Jaal Mann

Last week 48 adult Taylor’s checkerspots were released at a restoration site within the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area. The release was attended by three graduate research assistants from SPP, two restoration ecologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and 18 attorneys from the Washington Attorney General’s office. It was a rare treat for everyone involved.

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An attorney from the Attorney General’s office frees an adult Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly at Scatter Creek Wildlife Area. All photos by Jaal Mann.

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Another attorney enjoys a moment with a butterfly before it takes flight

The attorneys, who are responsible for representing WDFW in court, appeared especially enthusiastic and moved by the experience—there were many beautiful smiles as the butterflies left their hands. Dennis Aubrey, the SPP coordinator of the Taylor’s checkerspot program at MCCCW, provided instruction on proper release techniques, and then everyone had a chance to set a butterfly free: coaxing them out of their cups, placing them on flowers, or simply letting them fly away across the prairie.

This marks the winding down of the second season of butterfly rearing at MCCCW. Adult butterflies are released after breeding activities are concluded, to allow them to finish out their days in the sunshine, feeling the wind and tasting the flowers. These butterflies and their siblings are responsible for laying over 3,000 eggs at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) this season, which have hatched and are cared for by the inmates until release next March. To date, the MCCCW endangered butterfly rearing program has successfully reared and released over 7,000 Taylor’s checkerspot caterpillars onto prairie restoration sites in the south Puget lowlands.

Carefully releasing a Taylor's checkerspot butterfly into the wild

Carefully releasing a Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly

The butterfly takes its first flight at Scatter Creek Wildlife Area

The butterfly takes flight at Scatter Creek Wildlife Area

Lomatium provides a welcome landing site for a newly released butterfly

Lomatium provides a welcome landing site for a newly released butterfly

Filmmaker visits two prisons

By Joslyn Rose Trivett

Photo by Rosemarie Padovano titled "Nocturne." (source: http://www.rosemariepadovano.com/portfolio/nocturne/)

Photo by Rosemarie Padovano titled “Nocturne.” (source: http://www.rosemariepadovano.com/portfolio/nocturne/)

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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY2FEnjQO8I, and visit her website: http://www.rosemariepadovano.com/

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:

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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?

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WCCW’s Science & Sustainability Lecture Series: An Inmate’s Perspective

Editor’s note:  Today’s post was written by an inmate and SPP lecture series attendee at Washington Corrections Center for Women.  On May 7, Lynne Weber from West Sound Wildlife Shelter visited WCCW with Yukon, a red-tailed hawk, and Remington, a turkey vulture, to talk to the inmates about wildlife rehabilitation.

WCCW’s Science & Sustainability Lecture Series: An Inmate’s Perspective

By Jain Cannard,* WCCW

I have attended several Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) lectures here at WCCW and always come away having learned some amazing facts. The lecture today on raptors was an experience of a lifetime! Seeing those incredible birds up close allows us to better understand how our ecosystem works, and that each part of the chain is important and vital.

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Lynne Weber and Remington, a turkey vulture, visited WCCW on May 7 and presented to a record crowd of 73 inmates.

 

Your work here at WCCW helps to make these women better stewards of their community resources, better parents, and better citizens. That’s important work!

Each lecture is so different – I look forward to learning and researching the subject so I can imagine what the lecture will be like.  I am always surprised!

The surveys are also interesting. Who knew that opossums love slugs?! It’s good that SOMEONE loves them. The survey is a concrete way to ascertain how much we learn.

Thanks – please keep coming!

Wildlife rehabilitation specialist Lynne Weber and red-tailed hawk Yukon answered inmate questions about West Sound Wildlife Shelter. Photo by Rachel Stendahl.

Wildlife rehabilitation specialist Lynne Weber and red-tailed hawk Yukon answered inmate questions about West Sound Wildlife Shelter.

Inmates had the opportunity to examine some red-tailed hawk feathers during the presentation. Photo by Rachel Stendahl.

Inmates had the opportunity to examine red-tailed hawk feathers during the presentation.

Lynne, Yukon, and Remington were a huge hit at WCCW!  Photo by Rachel Stendahl.

Lynne, Yukon, and Remington were a huge hit at WCCW! Photos by R. Stendahl.

*name used with permission

New Prairie Restoration Community Crew

By Carl Elliott
Conservation and Restoration Coordinator

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Inmate work crews from the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) have worked in the community for over 20 years. These off-site crews maintain the infrastructure along highways and at parks and public facilities throughout the state. The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) recognized the value that the crews from Cedar Creek Correction Center (CCCC), could bring to restoration work on south Puget Sound prairies. Through a close collaboration with the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Natural Resources, a CCCC community crew of ten men dedicated to prairie habitat restoration just began their first week of work.

The new crew’s enthusiasm and eagerness to learn was evident from the first day. Many expressed a sharp interest in the cultivation techniques of prairie plants at the nursery site and the seed farm. We expect their learning curve will be steep. Restoration on prairies is a complex and interdisciplinary undertaking. The crew will gain and improve skills in a wide variety of techniques, including plant propagation, noxious weed control, seed production and processing, prescribed fire techniques, and plant re-introduction.

The staff, officers, and inmates at CCCC have shown incredible support for establishing the new crew. SPP and CNLM look forward to providing instruction, resources, and guidance to the crews so their work will be an enriching educational experience at the same time as they contribute to regional restoration efforts. The on-going conservation programs at WDOC facilities raising Oregon Spotted Frogs, Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, and prairie plants, will provide a foundation of curriculum, restoration reference materials, and protocols that can lead to the crew’s success. The investment and optimism shared by all parties suggests a bright future for this new endeavor.

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“Root View”: My Experience as a new Roots of Success Instructor

Editor’s note: Today’s blog post was written by an instructor in the Roots of Success program at Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) in Walla Walla. Roots of Success is an environmental literacy curriculum used nationwide that has just been implemented at four Washington DOC facilities, including WSP. Interested inmates are trained as instructors in the curriculum. With staff supervision, they teach classes of their peers about a variety of environmental topics. 

“Root View”: My Experience as a new Roots of Success Instructor
by Michael Oakes, Roots of Success Instructor

What the heck is “Environmental Literacy” anyway? That’s an expression used a lot in the descriptions of the Roots of Success program. My assumption, as I signed up to become an instructor, was that it was like being “computer literate,” and that turned out to be pretty much on mark. The rest of my assumptions about the program were pretty quickly demolished when I stepped into the day-long instructor course, taught by Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes. I assumed this was likely to be a feel-good icing of basic information dumbed-down to be accessible. In reality, it turned out to be a re-packaged post-graduate curriculum. I assumed we would have a harried mid-level instructor basically providing an official stamp on a diploma-mill, and instead I found a professional, exacting teaching methodology taught to us by Dr. Pinderhughes herself.

Though I was pleasantly surprised and impressed, a question remained: Would inmate students connect with the material? Would this represent nothing more than yet another time sink for people trying to burn time any way they could?

My first indication that I was not alone in seeing the value of Roots of Success was in speaking with my fellow instructors, who came from a variety of backgrounds and had a broad range of views about world politics. Every one of them found some area of the curriculum where they connected and developed genuine passion. That provided some reassurance.

The next milepost came with my preliminary introduction to our students. As we spoke about the curriculum and how it would mesh with the greater sustainability program here at WSP SPL (Washington State Penitentiary’s Sustainable Practices Lab), I heard one guy say, “I never thought I would get jazzed about what earthworms can do.”

 

The author instructs fellow inmates on the first day of Roots of Success classes at Washington State Penitentiary.  Photo by R. Branscum.

The author instructs fellow inmates on the first day of Roots of Success classes at Washington State Penitentiary. Photo by R. Branscum.

In speaking with them about seeking “green” jobs when their sentences are served, more than half of the students were immediately enthusiastic about the idea of work where they might be earning the same wages they are used to, but wherein they go to work every day knowing that they are working toward a cleaner, greener, more sustainable world.

Most of the students come from backgrounds flavored with despair and hopelessness, and the challenges to the environment can sometimes feel pretty desperate indeed. ​Roots of Success​ brings that key second component that has been missing in the worldview for most of us. It lights a path toward hope. It paints a picture of a conflict that, for once, is not only winnable, but a conflict that will have no losers at all. In that sense, the first “Root” of success is seeing the difference that even a pretty simple guy can make in a world where earthworms and honeybees are our fellow troops.

SPP National Workshop was a resounding success

Teams meet again to complete the launching of six new SPPs!

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, Interim Program Manager

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Teams from the states of Oregon, Ohio, Maryland, California, and Washington as well as Multnomah, Santa Clara, and Los Angeles counties were hosted by the Utah team for a two and half day workshop. The workshop was the bookend to the conference held in Olympia back in September. Both meetings were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)–SPP Co-Director, Carri LeRoy and Senior Advisor, Nalini Nadkarni secured the funding to help new teams initiate programming based on the SPP model, and create an SPP Network. The same teams attended both meetings, and it was exciting and fun to be reunited.

Paul Sheldon, an expert in sustainable operations in prisons nation-wide, also attended both meetings, and at the second we gained Tommy Norris, Director of GreenPrisons.org. At the Utah workshop we were also blessed by the expertise of Sarah Galgano of the Vera Institute and Kathleen Gookin of Criminal Justice Planning Services, Inc. Conference evaluator Chuck Lennox of Cascade Interpretive Consulting LLC and facilitator Eric Mitchell of Fifth Ocean Consulting provided guidance on Network visioning, structure, and strategy. These experts’ diverse perspectives enriched the conversations and the outcomes of the workshop.

The agenda was action-packed, and communications ranged from tackling difficult questions to wide-ranging dreams for the future. Every team presented highlights of their progress and plans, and we were dazzled at how far they had come in six months. The group discussed tools created by our SPP-WA team that will support the Network and gave feedback and ideas for how the Network may best meet their future needs. I feel gratified at the efforts of our hosts and every team who attended. There was a great showing of optimism, creativity, and good humor. May we all meet again soon!

All photos are from the gala at the lovely Orangerie, an event that also included invites from local conservation, education, and restoration organizations. SPP Co-Director Dan Pacholke and Graduate Research Assistant Andrea Martin performed their TEDx talk and it was even better than the original. In addition, it was exciting to hear former inmate Craig Ulrich speak about his life-changing experiences with SPP-WA and current PhD research, and Tami Goetz (UT Legislative Science Advisor) discuss the need for expanded STEM (science technology engineering and mathematics) education. Hats off to SPP-UT for a terrific workshop!

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