Category Archives: Uncategorized

Larch Corrections Center – An Upcoming Beekeeper’s Paradise

SPP had another fantastic meeting with Larch Corrections Center. We went to the prison to talk about beekeeping and were met with enthusiasm for this new educational program.

Sadie Gilliom meets with the turtle technicians. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom meets with the turtle technicians. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Larch has a turtle program that has been wildly successful. In partnership with the Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and others, endangered Western Pond Turtles with a shell disease came to Larch for rest and recuperation. The technicians did such a wonderful job caring for the turtles that they were all released back into the wild earlier this season! While they await the arrival of more turtles this fall, the technicians are pursuing a new science education opportunity- beekeeping. With support from SPP and beekeeping partners, Larch Corrections Center plans to offer an apprentice level beekeeping certification class sometime this fall.

Sadie Gilliom, Emily Passarelli, and Shawn Piliponis discuss beekeeping at Larch. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom, Emily Passarelli, and CC2 Shawn Piliponis discuss beekeeping at Larch. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

This course will not only educate technicians to be state certified beekeepers, but may also provide opportunities to assist in hive research. In addition, with the help of Classification Counselor 2 Shawn Piliponis, technicians are piloting a program to build bee hives out of recycled, untreated pallet wood. They eventually want to donate the bee boxes to local schools and organizations to support pollinator recovery. Programs like these can reduce idleness among incarcerated individuals. Reduced idleness leads to reduced violence and infractions.

While there aren’t any bees at the prison yet, Stafford Creek Corrections Center is generously donating one of their hives so Larch can get started this August. Next season we aim to have six hives of two different hive types in operation.

We are confident this collaborative program will be a great success with education at the center of the endeavor!


Airway Heights Abuzz with Beekeeping

By Kay Heinrich, Associate Superintendent at Airway Heights Corrections Center

AIRWAY HEIGHTS — Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) has introduced honeybees to not only help the facility’s gardens but to sustain a healthy bee population for AHCC and the local community.

The four beehives will provide an educational opportunity in sustainability and help improve local community for AHCC. Photo by DOC Staff.

The four beehives will provide an educational opportunity in sustainability and help improve local community for AHCC. Photo by DOC Staff.

The four bee hives arrived this summer, courtesy of Jim Miller, a master beekeeper associated with the West Plains Beekeepers Association and members of AHCC sustainability committee. The bee hives are located near the facility gardens with access to a water source, and safely out of the way of normal foot traffic. Participation in the bee program is highly competitive and increases facility safety by serving an incentive for infraction-free behavior as part of the application and screening process.

Two incarcerated individuals begin their educational work with the honeybees. Photo by DOC Staff.

Two incarcerated individuals begin their educational work with the honeybees. Photo by DOC Staff.

The master beekeeper is facilitating a class for those interested in becoming certified bee apprentices. Completion of the course and passing of the Washington State Beekeepers Apprentice Certification will qualify a participant as an apprentice beekeeper. The goal is to include multiple groups in working together for safer communities through knowledge, education and collaboration.

Over the past year, the gardens, bees, vermiculture, recycling, and providing wood for local community members in need during the winter months has been engaging and a uniting effort for staff and inmates to work toward a sustainable environment and a way to give back to the community. The sustainability projects have earned enthusiasm from staff and provided hope and education for the incarcerated population.

Setting up the new beehives on arrival. Photo by DOC Staff.

Setting up the new beehives on arrival. Photo by DOC Staff.

The Washington State Department of Corrections has earned a national reputation for its efforts to make both its operations and facilities more sustainable while increasing facility safety. By being innovative and forming unique partnerships, such as the Sustainability in Prisons Project, facilities have been made safer through reduced infractions and the incarcerated population has been provided with new skill sets while being meaningfully engaged.

Larch Corrections Center – Ricky Osborne Photo Gallery

A special thanks is in order for Ricky Osborne! He’s doing an internship with SPP this summer. He’s been coming along with us on our prisons visits and taking amazing photos of our programs. Check out these photos from our recent trip to Larch Corrections Center. Thanks Ricky for the fantastic pictures!

Sadie Gilliom meets with the turtle technicians. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom meets with the turtle technicians. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom, Emily Passarelli, and Shawn Piliponis discuss beekeeping at Larch. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom, Emily Passarelli, and Shawn Piliponis discuss beekeeping at Larch. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

An incarcerated individual proudly shows off the cat he is rehabilitating. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

An incarcerated individual proudly shows off the cat he is rehabilitating. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Another member of Larch's cat program poses with his cat. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Another member of Larch’s cat program poses with his cat. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

A houseplant in one of the living units. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

A houseplant in one of the living units. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

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.



A Technician’s Experience in a Room Full of Frog Scientists

Each year a group of amphibian experts meets to discuss status, research updates and action items for the recovery of the state endangered and federally threatened Oregon spotted frog (OSF).  This year, the two OSF technicians, who cared for and released 167 frogs in 2015, were able to attend this important meeting and share the critical role they have played in the OSF recovery effort.  The following blog is inmate science technician Mr. Boysen’s reaction to the meeting.  Thank you Mr. Boysen, for sharing your experience and for everything you have contributed to the program.-Sadie Gilliom-Sustainability in Prisons Project OSF and Western Pond Turtle Coordinator

Today my co-worker and I went to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.  We left Cedar Creek Corrections Center earlier than I expected and made it to the Refuge a little late.  We were greeted by our boss, Mrs. Gilliom and directed to our seats.  It was a pretty intimidating place at first glance.  There were lots of badges and logos on shirts and hats. I recognized most of them.  There was Northwest Trek, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Woodland Park Zoo, Oregon Zoo and other people I have seen and given tours of the turtle program to at Cedar Creek.  Seeing familiar faces made it less intimidating.  Right out of the gate, Kelli Bush, the manager at the Sustainability in Prisons Project came up and thanked us for coming and I saw more and more people I’d seen before.

Mr. Boysen giving a tour to zookeepers and veterinarian from Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Mr. Boysen giving a tour to zookeepers and veterinarian from Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

The presentations started and I was amazed at the large size of this group of really smart people- these people spend so much of their time and career on these frogs.  There are so many aspects of this project I didn’t really understand were going on behind the scenes.  It was interesting to hear from JBLM about how they haven’t found any egg masses or frogs at the release site.  It was nice to hear that they are finding Oregon spotted frogs in locations around the Black River area that are thriving.  I didn’t recognize how much work was done just to survey the swamps, marshes, and ditches where frogs might be hiding.  Getting to see the maps with the GPS lines that showed where people had actually slogged their way through mud and muck was pretty cool.

Another part of the presentation that I found to be really cool was the different types of work that is being done to restore habitat for the frogs.  The different ways that the reed canary grass is being removed/eradicated was very interesting.  The mats of native plants that were going into production at another prison sound like a good idea.  It was fascinating to see how much work was involved with the restoration of native plants.  They burn, move, weed wack, hand cut and till the soil to allow a more inhabitable place for the frogs to live.

You would never really think all of this was going on to save a frog from extinction. It kind of gives you hope when you really think about it.  If this many people can spend this much time and brainpower on one little frog and one state’s government can spend this much money to stop one species of frog from disappearing then maybe we haven’t become blind to what we have done to the world we live in.  Maybe we can fix the things we have messed up and the damage we have done to our world.

Mr. Boysen holding an OSF that was being raised at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Mr. Boysen holding an OSF that was being raised at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

The most intimidating part of the trip was the presentation we gave.  Now, I’m not a shy person or timid in any way, but when I walked to the front of that room with Mrs. Gilliom and Bill, I was a little surprised with how big the room got.  Having that many intelligent people staring at you is intimidating.  It was trial by fire for Bill and me.  We told the group of leading experts in their field what we were getting from the program and why we wanted to be a part of it.  Neither of us babbled or passed out, so that was cool.  Then after we finished we actually got an applause.  We were there for hours and saw 10 people go up and talk to the group.  We were the only ones that got applause!

Then it was time for us to go, so we hopped into the transport van to go back to prison.  It was an eye opening experience for the both of us.

I’ve been in prison for over half a decade and for that four hours we were there, we were not inside a prison compound and were not surrounded by prisoners and razor wire.  I almost felt like I was a different version of myself, that I had not made the mistakes I made when I was young. It was nice to see that the work we do at Cedar Creek plays a pretty big role in trying to fix a problem we, as our own species, have caused in our environment and planet.

Mr. Boysen cleaning the OSF tank full of tadpoles at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Mr. Boysen cleaning the OSF tank full of tadpoles at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

It was a Toad-ally Ribbiting Lecture with the Special Offenders Unit

Blog and photos by Liliana Caughman, SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator

Last month the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series held its first ever lecture at the Special Offenders Unit (SOU) at Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC).


This lecture, led by our amazingly talented Frog and Turtle Program Coordinator Sadie Gilliom, proved to be one of the most interactive and fun lectures of all time.


The audience was lively but respectful. They were eager to learn more and more about the “Amazing World of Amphibians”.


At least one of the students who attended the lecture is hearing impaired, so we had the added pleasure of seeing the lecture interpreted through sign language.


Watching the stories about amphibians come to life through movement made the presentation even more captivating and stimulating.


The students were particularly enthralled by a story in which Sadie was bitten by an amphibian! Many were shocked to learn that the critters have small sandpaper-like teeth.


Sadie offered multiple hands-on activities, and the students were able to engage with the sights and sounds of amphibians, while also learning a bit about their role in ecology.


In one activity the students were each given two papers. On command they all raised sheet no. 1 into the air and looked around the classroom. There was a plethora of beautiful and highly varied species of amphibians.


Then they were instructed to hold up sheet no. 2 and look around. It was only bullfrogs. This helped students conceptualize the importance of biodiversity.


Next the students worked on matching pictures of fully grown amphibians to images of their egg masses. This was an exploratory way to learn about the life cycle of these fascinating creatures.


The lecture ended with an activity in which Sadie played audio sounds of different amphibian’s calls and the class tried to identify which species it belonged to. It was impressive how well some of the students did on this and we learned that they can often hear frogs chirping from a nearby wetland.

looking up at frog card

It was a thrilling and inspiring day of learning. After being unsure of the reception we’d find in the Special Offenders Unit, we were delighted to discover one of the best lecture audiences we have had. We here at SPP, as well as MCC staff and students, are all looking forward to the next one.

No More Phones

The following blog is the third article submitted to us by one of SPP’s Western Pond Turtle Inmate Technicians.  Although we may not agree with all he says, we think it is a well thought out and interesting presentation of the challenges and possibilities of building a sustainable world.  We want to thank Mr. Anglemyer for sharing his meaningful perspective.

By Mr. Anglemyer, Western Pond Turtle Inmate Technician

Simulation done by NASA showing CO2 in the earth's atmosphere.

Simulation done by NASA showing CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere.

The following is my attempt to put the climate crisis into an analogy that defines the seriousness of the problem and how easy it is to become distracted from it by short term goals, wants and the ostensible necessities that we all seem to be obsessed with.

Nothing seems more important to people nowadays than their phones, so I’ve decided to use a phone analogy in order to be as relevant as possible. Let’s say that: Everyone has a cell phone that runs off the same communal battery. This battery has been around forever; before phones and even people. It belongs to no one and everyone (including non-human animals) at the same time. This battery has a really long life–four to five billion years or so. Unfortunately, this battery has no gauge to tell how much of a charge it has left; it is impossible to tell when it will run out. The battery can recharge itself to a limited degree, yet it never recharges faster than its optimum potential and it will recharge slower (or even to the point where the recharging is not sufficient to stop the battery from depleting) depending on the amount of use.  Moreover, its recharging capacity will become permanently damaged by extreme over use.

All the phones will die if the battery is depleted completely. The battery cannot recharge itself if it is drained below half of its capacity. Once it passes the threshold of half charged to below half charged, that’s it. It will run down its last half charge and then go out forever, done, dead, kaput!

As long as the battery is kept charged above half full, it will continue to recharge itself and will be around for a very long time– the aforesaid five billion years. The problem is, although the battery will continue to hold a charge for a long time, the time that it takes for it to go from above half charged to below half-charged will happen in an instant. Because there is not a battery gauge it is necessary to be conservative with phone use and liberal in regards of charging the phone, right? That seems rational, does it not?

Let’s think of the planet as analogous with the phone/battery described above; a phone that will last for eons; a phone that we depend on.  It is the only phone that we’ll ever have access to.  The phone just needs to be kept charged above half at all times.  This means that it is our duty to conserve use and be careful with how we use the phone.  If we hand the phone over to our children only half-charged they will not be able to recharge it. It will last them and their children, and their children’s children (maybe longer, maybe not, definitely not equally in terms of quality); but it will never be recharged again. It will have a lifespan that is a small fraction of the four to five billion years.

The ability of the battery to recharge in this analogy is similar to how the planet’s ecosystems work to keep the planet healthy. The degradation of the battery represents the degradation of the ecosystems which sustain the planet in a livable form. The air, water, and soil are all necessary for life. Their degradation to a point which they are unable to regenerate themselves is the end of…well…the end of everything (at least as far as we’re concerned). These elements regenerate as long as the plants and animals that support their health are not destroyed, poisoned, or overharvested past the point of their own ability to replenish themselves. Once the soil and the animals that contribute to its ability to regenerate die out forever–it’s, as they say in showbiz, a wrap.

No more phones — forever. No more planet–forever.  All that had to be done to prevent this tragedy was for people to take a stance on the side of caution, dial down their consumption, and put an end to their wastefulness; thusly, allowing the ecosystems to heal.  Instead it looks like our species (and many others, thanks to our myopic actions) is soon to be evicted from this world–like loud, destructive, and messy tenets from a rental (and rightly so, if we don’t change our ways).

I know this is an oversimplified analogy. I’ve probably failed to put it down in an articulate way–the way it made sense in my head.  I’m not a professional writer. I’m not a professional scientist. I’m not a philosopher. I’m just some dude in prison with lots of time to think.  I may be wrong. The climate might not be becoming unlivable; the animals may not be becoming extinct; and, if they are, our species’ activities might not be the cause. But, if, there’s the slightest chance that they are, and we are causing it, wouldn’t it be sensible to be extremely cautious with regards to the impacts we impose upon them?

Anglemyer holding an federally threatened Oregon spotted frog. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

Anglemyer holding a federally threatened Oregon spotted frog. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

The thing that worries me though is that if I have come to these conclusions about playing it safe when it comes to our planet: why haven’t most of the extensively smart and caring individuals that have been elected to represent us in the legislature come to the same conclusions?

I’m sure that many of them would say that I’ve been brainwashed by environmentalist propaganda.  They’d say that I’m anti-business, or even anti-American.  Others might just make excuses for how change happens slowly, or how we’re just not ready to make the jump to a “green lifestyle/economy.” I’d retort by accusing them of being the lapdogs of industrialism and imperialism.  But sadly, they’re not alone.  We’ve all been enchanted by the spell of industrialism.  We all live and depend on the conveniences and privileges that Industrialism and Imperialism force upon us–privileges and conveniences that addicted us to an extremely unsustainable and wasteful lifestyle.

Recently, we had some people come out and give an estimate of what it would take to set up a solar powered shack. They gave a well-researched, thorough presentation. I felt so discouraged when it was over; Thousands of dollars for initial setup and one huge battery to run only four 100 watt heat lamps. At the time I remember thinking: “What a bummer! I really thought that solar power had come much further than that.” I had fallen victim to the energy addiction that industrialism has to offer. In reality, 400 watts of power is a lot of power. It is plenty to reasonably light a house, but it’s not enough to keep up with our excessive demand for energy.

A model of the proposed solar power unit for the turtle shed. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

A model of the proposed solar power unit for the turtle shed. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

We’re going to have to say goodbye to lots of the things we have become reliant on, before a sustainable—and healed—world is possible. This means that instead of depending on others to feed us, we are going to have to become responsible for growing our own food. This means cities will have to transform drastically from their current state of existence. This means that, our economy is going to have to change as well. We’re going to have to figure out new ways to feed and entertain ourselves, hopefully we can. We all might become more responsible family members, friends, neighbors (as people connected to their land bases usually are) … you know, better HUMANS, more connected to each other than with our stuff.

These changes are going to be fought against by many of us. “What do you mean I can’t have bacon and cheese on everything!? What do you mean I can’t have avocados in February? What do you mean I can’t drive a monster truck that gets 6 miles to the gallon? I’m an American! Which means that I can have whatever I want whenever I want it, and do whatever I want whenever I want to!” I can hear it now. Indeed, I do hear it now—it seems to be the attitude that many people have when told that things they have become accustomed to are destroying the planet’s ability to sustain life.

Switching back to the phone/battery metaphor, people with the above attitudes want to use their phones more and more. More data, more apps, more Google searches for meaningless trivia or celebrity gossip, more and more till the battery is drained past half and can never be recharged.

So when you hear some politician or plutocrat and their commercials spouting slogans like “energy independence,” “economic stability,” “more middle-class jobs,” “make America great again,” realize that they’re peddling the destruction of everything and everyone in the future in order to make gluttons of themselves in the present. They want to run the battery out as quickly as possible. They want to bleed the planet dry as quickly as possible, and they are relying on us to be complicit (or at least complaisant) in the waste. They are selling what we have been buying for centuries; the same myopic idea of utilitarian use and pervasive domination that got us into our current crisis.

It is an easy sell. Change towards a sustainable world is going to be hard work. I mean literally and figuratively. It will entail the literal, hard physical, work of growing food and raising animals and tearing up parking lots and renovating office buildings into more useful structures. It will entail the figurative, mental and emotional work of reimagining social organizations and power structures. (So much more could be written about these aspects, but this is a blog, not a book.) It’s a shameful fact that the hard physical work that sustains our agriculture and construction industries has been consigned, for the most part, to the most vulnerable of our population—the undocumented and uneducated, the marginalized and the poverty-stricken. If sustainability is to become a reality everyone is going to have to do their share of labor (real labor that produces needed things). The changing of deeply ingrained ideas is going to be a lot harder. It may take a very long time; and, it may never be completely finished.

So instead of running down the battery watching NASCAR on your 60 inch television, playing fantasy football, immersing in presidential politics, becoming obsessed with the latest exercise or diet fad—or some other wholly insane and preposterous activity, try thinking about what you have been buying all these years and why you need it (or don’t). Realize that it’s been easy for sellers to peddle these things/attitudes to you, because irresponsibility and gluttony sell themselves—especially when their disguised as inevitabilities that are going to be bought with or without your consent.

Roots of Success Graduation Speech – Larch Corrections Center

I had the privilege of visiting Larch Corrections Center’s first graduation Roots of Success class in the beginning of December. A huge congratulations is in order for everyone involved. Thank you to the students, instructors, and Classification Counselor Shawn Piliponis for the dedication and hard work. It couldn’t be done without you. We look forward to celebrating many more graduations.

LCC-Roots-gradsI wanted to share one of the seven wonderful speeches that each offender gave. Daniel C. Carter of Larch Corrections Center wrote and presented the speech below. Mr. Carter would love to become a Roots of Success Instructor someday.

That is such a nice smile! :>)

That is such a nice smile! :>)

Dear Ms. Raquel Pinderhughes,

I am writing to thank you for your dedication to helping prisoners to enhance their environmental awareness. I first became aware of your contribution to the Sustainability in Prisons Project while I was working in the Engineering Department at Stafford Creek Corrections Centers in 2012-2013. I was able to be involved in the Beekeeping program as well as doing construction and repair work on the Tilapia Farm, the recycling center, and building the hoop houses that went to the women’s prison. It was also there that I first heard about the Roots of Success class.

Student Daniel Carter gives his speech during Larch's first Roots of Success Graduation. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Student Daniel Carter gives his speech during Larch’s first Roots of Success Graduation. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

I’ve been incarcerated for fifteen years and working at Stafford Creek and being part of the Sustainability in Prisons Project was one of the most rewarding  and fulfilling experiences I’ve had in all that time. Being engaged with the environment and things that are positively impact the planet was therapeutic and even humanizing.

As a person who has spent my entire adult life in prison, I can say with authority of personal experience and years of critical observation that the prison experience is generally humiliating, degrading, and painful. We are cut off from the natural world and the rest of civilization almost completely. Many of us live our lives like animals in zoos: trapped behind concrete walls, razor wire fences, within steel cages, surrounded by extraordinary levels of hostility. It is a hardship to simply not become hardened.

Most of us who endure incarceration suffer from severe trauma as a result of existing under these circumstances. Therefore, I’m convinced being part of these programs, such as those at Stafford Creek and Roots of Success, is critical to keeping men and women who are behind bars in touch with their humanity and in contact with the natural world.

I joined the Roots of Success class here at Larch Corrections Center because of the great work I was exposed to at Stafford. I’ve learned many useful things from the Roots of Success class, such as the impact of industrialization, climate change, green jobs, and alternative ways of behaving to minimize my own carbon footprint. I learned about sustainable development and environmental justice/injustice. I also learned about just how wasteful our consumer culture really is and how our economic and social system contributes to gross impacts on our environment, treating the planet and people as if they are disposable.

The environmental literacy curriculum is well designed and I feel like it is very beneficial. I enjoyed the videos. My favorite one was called, “The Story of Stuff.”

I also liked the module on financial literacy and social entrepreneurship. The fact that it is taught by inmates is also something about it that I really appreciate.

I look forward to getting out of prison and being part of the solution for the problem we are facing in terms of climate change and the destruction of the world’s most precious non-renewable resources. I want to live a lifestyle conducive to the world around me rather than one that corrupts it further. I want my children to learn to respect the biosphere of which they are a part of and to realize their responsibility to maintain and protect it.

Thank you so much for your work. You have helped me to not only being even more environmentally conscious, but even more inspired to propagate environmental literacy and green ways of living.


Daniel C Carter, #838440

Larch Correction Center


Congrats to Mr. Carter and his fellow students and instructors for this fantastic feat!

From Poop to Employment: Jonathan Jones-Thomas shares his experience returning to prison as a guest lecturer

By Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas, Group Three Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator
Photos by Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator

Going back to prison to talk to inmates about job opportunities in the industry of wastewater treatment through SPP was indescribable. To return 1 ½ years after serving a 10-year sentence for assault… I told myself I would never go back. I didn’t know I would have the opportunity to go back to encourage others to walk my path, seek out healthy relationships and green job opportunities.

The author poses in the parking lot of Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

The author poses in the parking lot of Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

While incarcerated at the Monroe Correctional Complex (Monroe, WA), I was introduced to the wastewater industry by a “white man” by the name of Brian Funk. Being “black” myself, I didn’t expect to be introduced to education or employment opportunities by “white dudes”. Brian was unique in that he didn’t care about all the prison politics involved with “looking out for your own kind”. He was the type to “just do the right thing”. As the result, four years later, I type this at a computer working for a municipality in Snohomish County; I make good money, and Brian works next to me. He had no idea his small investment in the “black guy” would lead to a career in wastewater for the both of us, plus a plethora of opportunities to encourage others to do the same thing.

We were invited to speak at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (Aberdeen, WA) by Kristin Covey, a Brightwater employee. Brightwater is the upper echelon of wastewater treatment in the state of Washington. Kristin was invited by SPP to present at the prison and decided it would be best to bring two guys along that have been “in” and are now “out” in the industry. Before arriving, Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator, made clear that there was a growing interest in green jobs post prison. During the two hour drive, Brian and I formulated a plan to maximize our time with the offenders, knowing that there was a unique opportunity for them to hear about the pitfalls and challenges first hand.


Kristin Covey, Brian Funk, and Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas, three experts in waste water treatment, co-presented to a mesmerized audience.

Walking into the prison was extremely stressful. In the back of my mind I knew I would be leaving in a matter of hours, but in my emotions…I waited to leave prison for 9 years 21 days and here I am inside again. But this time Brian and I have the reputation of SPP and wastewater industry professional, Kristin Covey, arriving and leaving with us. Walking through the breezeway, I looked at all the other fellow inmates thinking, “I wonder if they know I’m one of them.” Brian, having spent time at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, was greeted by a number of fellow inmates. It made me feel more comfortable knowing that they knew we too have walked that breezeway. By the time I got to the classroom I was ready to present. The fifty or so folks that showed up were ready to learn about the career opportunities in the wastewater industry. They didn’t know that I would bombard them with a lesson in life skills. Hopefully, Brian and I made it clear: you don’t get to get out of prison and maintain success in any industry, or life for that matter, without personal growth. Education is the key to a successful, sustainable transition back to society. It was awesome…

Brian and Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas learned about waste water treatment in-prison and went on to make it a career after release.

Brian Funk and Jonathan C. Jones-Thomas learned about waste water treatment while incarcerated, and they have turned their expertise into careers.

Roots of Success Graduation Speech

This speech was presented by Roots of Success graduate Robert Mayo on July 22, 2015; shared here with his permission.

Good Afternoon.

My name is Robert Mayo and I’m here today because I completed Roots of Success.

I would like to take this moment to show the utmost respect and give gratitude towards all of those who were involved in Roots of Success.

First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes [Roots founder], Mr. Aleksinski [SCCC Roots Liaison and Classification Counselor] and the rest of the supporting cast up here today that made all of this possible. Next, I would like to thank Mr. Walrond, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Duhaime and Mr. Powers for doing such an amazing job instructing us. And lastly, I would like to thank all of us here today who are receiving certificates, because today we all proved to ourselves that hard work, dedication and determination truly pays off!


Mr. Mayo gives a speech at the Roots of Success graduation. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

Before Roots of Success I had the mind frame to put things off until tomorrow. I was a procrastinator and I hated to try anything new or anything I wasn’t good at. For example, PUBLIC SPEAKING! This has been one of my biggest fears throughout my entire life. Even as a kid, I can still recall the feelings I felt when having to speak in front of the class. My heartbeat would start to speed up. My hands would become all sweaty. My armpits would start to drip. And my mind would picture everyone in the classroom laughing at me. IT WAS HORRIBLE! I remember telling Mr. Walrond about this when I first started Roots of Success. He told me that by the end of this course not only will I be able to speak in front of any crowd, but I will be able to do it with confidence and conviction. That conversation was just a few short months ago and today I’m happy to be able to have Mr. Walrond’s prediction come to fruition.

50+ inmates graduate from Roots of Success. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

Over 50 Roots of Success graduates listening to a speech. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

You see, Roots of Success didn’t only teach me how to make my environment a better place for me to live in, but it also taught me how to become a better person within my environment. My favorite modules were “Community Organizing and Leadership” and “Financial Literacy and Social Entreprneurship.” These two modules really hit home for me. I never realized all the procedures being taken to make certain laws come into effect. I was unaware of people going to local town hall meetings to fight against the major corporations that are placing factories inside of their communities without their permission. Or the ongoing battle that’s been prevalent all across the U.S. between minorities and The Department of Justice on police brutality. Or the parents who protest constantly about the lack of education their children are receiving throughout their low income neighborhoods. If I choose to fight when I get out of here these are the types of fights that I want to be a part of. As a collective, we have the power to make a difference! We have the power to make our voices heard! We have the power to take action! So why don’t we?

Roots of Success students study together in a group.

Roots of Success students study together in a group during a regular class. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

In the “Financial Literacy and Social Entrepreneurship” module, I learned how to fill out an application correctly. I learned what I should wear, how I should talk and what I should do when going in for an interview. I know now how to set short and long term goals, how to budget my finances and how to live comfortably within my means. I got something from each and every module, but these were the two modules that woke me up the most. I’m done living life in a daydream and I’m ready to fight for what it is that I want.

Roots of success was essential to my growth. It was the first building-block to the foundation of my future. The only negative thing that I can say about Roots of Success, is that it’s already over. I hope that eventually there will be an additional course offered to us here at Stafford Creek. If possible, I would like to be the first person to sign up and I can guarantee you that many others would be soon to follow.

Roots of Success is a Success!

Before I leave here today I would like to mention three things that I can now say about living green.




Thank you for your time.

Recent Roots of Success graduates proudly display their certificates

Recent Roots of Success graduates proudly display their graduation certificates. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

For more information on the Roots of Success, please contact the program coordinator Emily Passarelli at