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The Effects of Believing

by Cyril Walrond, Roots of Success Instructor and Master Trainer

“…All things are possible to him that believes.” Mark 9:23

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Cyril Walrond, Roots of Success instructor speaking at the class graduation ceremony in 2014. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Teaching the Roots of Success environmental literacy curriculum here at Stafford Creek has been not only a blessing to my life but has also been an enriching privilege and honor. To teach this 10-module course in a classroom without any correctional staff, administration, or outside volunteers to sponsor it is unprecedented in the Department of Corrections. Daily it is just me and my two co-workers Grady Mitchell and David Duhaime in our classroom teaching a class of 20-30 eager incarcerated students.

They told us it could not be done, but we are doing it. They doubted that there would be any interest, but we have become one of the most sought after programs among the men at the facility. They thought that the material might be too difficult or challenging, we said let’s challenge them. Now, nearly 2 1/2 years later, we have graduated 8 classes and over 200 students. How was this done?… Through believing!

It is only through believing that we can make a difference that we can then impact our students. It is only through instilling this belief in our students, that they have something to contribute to this world, that they began to care about how they have impacted their environment and how they will impact it into the future. Looking beyond their present pain and into the future possibilities.

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A look at over 50 students graduating from the Roots of Success program at Stafford Creek. Photo by Tiffany Webb.

My co-workers and I met frequently before our first class and agreed that if we did not believe in ourselves, this curriculum, and then each other, our students would never believe in us, this curriculum, or themselves. Now we are seeing the effects of our believing on the lives of not inmates, not convicts, not offenders, but on once-broken men who are now on a conquest to make a difference as they repair their lives.

Many of our students came into class with a warped self-image. Programmed to think that prison was inevitably predestined for their lives and that this is what they were being groomed for from the time they were conceived. We assure them these lies have conditioned them to the point of complacency, stagnation, and then finally acceptance. This place of acceptance is the realm in which many of them dwell, after having accepted their plight. However, they are made for more!

This is why one of my students, who we call Radio, really touched my heart when he personally thanked me at the conclusion of this class’s graduation. “Sir, thank you. You pushed me when I did not want to move. You challenged me when I felt like giving up. You believed in me when I did not believe in myself. Even when I thought my future was hopeless, you quoted to me several times Jeremiah 29:11.”

Radio is just one of many success stories that the 3 of us laugh and joke about when times get hard and our patience may be running thin with our students. (Trust me, anyone who has ever taught knows what I mean.) But we never get discouraged by the uphill battle. We press on and continue to believe that what we are accomplishing is much bigger than any one of us. Radio is a perfect example of how our believing in our students against all odds is giving hope to the hopeless.

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A Roots of Success class in action at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Sooner or later most of these men will be released. These men enter into our classroom one way and by the time that they leave their minds have been expanded beyond recognition. David, Grady, and I believe that what we are doing will transcend these walls, and society will begin to believe in the great potential held within.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11

These are the effects of believing! So let me ask, what are you believing for?

 

More Food for the Very Hungry Caterpillars at MCCCW

 

SPP student-staff and butterfly technicians at MCCCW install four new raise beds to grow Plantago, food for the butterfly larvae.

SPP student-staff and butterfly technicians at MCCCW install four new raise beds to grow plantain, a common weed preferred by the endangered butterfly as food in their larval life-stage. Photo by Seth Dorman.

A refreshing, overcast morning at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) made for great weather to build four new raised beds for the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Program. We will grow plantain (Plantago) in these beds to increase the amount of food for the caterpillars (larvae) at the facility. SPP’s nursery crew—including Carl Elliott, Allie Denzler, and Ricky Johnson— joined the butterfly team on the project.

Lindsey Hamilton, Taylor's Checkerspot Program Coordinator, and butterfly technician Eva Ortiz unload a wheelbarrow full of soil.

Lindsey Hamilton, Taylor’s Checkerspot Program Coordinator, and butterfly technician Eva Ortiz unload a wheelbarrow full of soil. Photo by Seth Dorman.

 

Butterfly technician Michelle Dittamore and SPP nursery coordinator Allie Denzler install support brackets. in a corner. Photo by Seth Dorman.

Butterfly technician Michelle Dittamore and SPP nursery coordinator Allie Denzler install support brackets. in a corner. Photo by Seth Dorman.

The Taylor’s Checkerspot larvae require Plantago leaves for foraging, and then as adult they can use the plants as a place to lay their eggs. In recent years, the larvae have prospered; the hard-working technicians dutifully supply each larva with an appropriate serving of food. The larvae will eat as much as they can in the fall to grow and store up enough energy to survive the cold, winter months of dormancy (diapause). When the hungry larvae wake-up in mid-February, they require an ample food each day to  become a pupa (pupate). Some Februarys, the Plantago plants have not yet had favorable weather conditions for sprouting new, plentiful leaves. Consequently, the food the larvae desperately need to complete their life cycle is scarce. Some years, technicians are forced to pick from scattered Plantago around the perimeter of the facility.

By adding the new raised beds, we hope to have a more dependable supply for larvae to metamorphose into beautifully checkered adults. With the bed additions, we hope to grow at least 3,500 plantain plants. This means each of the 3,500 larvae reared in a season will have their own individual plantain plant! We plan to add cold frames for each raised bed, which will boost plantain production in late winter. Bountiful food resources for the butterfly larvae are beneficial in the warmer months of the season if some food recourses become contaminated or reduced due to pests and disease.

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SPP’s nursery crew and butterfly team shovel soil to be placed in new raise beds. Photo by Seth Dorman.

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After some heavy lifting of soil with shovels, the maintenance crew at MCCCW shows SPP their bulldozing skills. Photo by Seth Dorman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing Two Worlds Combine

By Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator

(Follow-up post from May 2015 lecture at WCCW.)

Tiffany Webb is finishing her graduate degree in Environmental and Social Justice at the Evergreen State College. Her interdisciplinary thesis focuses on the intersection of environmental justice and education in prisons.

I can’t keep down some strong feelings about leaving every time I am at a lecture now. After nearly two years as the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series Program Coordinator, I only have two more lectures to host before a new MES graduate student finds their own spot in this position. It is exciting to pass the opportunity to someone new, offering an experience that I imagine will be just as eye-opening and rewarding as my own. At the same time, it is very difficult to leave knowing I likely will never again see the people I’ve worked with, learned alongside, and advocated for in prisons.

Tiffany Webb presenting on the environmental justice paradigm and climate justice.

Tiffany presenting on the EJ paradigm and climate justice at Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

Tuesday was a beautiful day. The SPP Network Manager and I have developed science and sustainability education certificates for incarcerated men and women who attend the lecture series regularly. After Tuesday’s presentations, a woman who has been going to lectures at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) for years received the very first certificate recommending transfer credit at Evergreen! We shared such a moment of pride in that room—women lifting each other up and celebrating, owning the classroom and their minds. I am thankful for these moments of victory behind prison walls, and the lasting impact formalization of the Science and Sustainability Lecture Series will have.

Chelsea Smith Waddell, recent MES graduate, giving a presenting on her thesis research.

Chelsea Smith Waddell, recent MES graduate, giving a presentation on her thesis research at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

That day, the new MES Director—someone I consider a huge mentor—Kevin Francis, gave a presentation. Chelsea Smith Waddell, one of the most brilliant and vibrant women I know, also joined us and she shared her thesis research with the class. Her research focused on habitat characteristics of the Oregon Spotted Frog, an endangered frog species being reared at Cedar Creek Corrections Center and released on WA prairies through SPP partnerships.

Kevin Francis, MES Director at the Evergreen State College lecturing at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Kevin Francis, MES Director at the Evergreen State College, lecturing at WCCW.

It was amazing to be in that classroom, seeing my two worlds combine: my Evergreen and WCCW peers all in one room, engaging in education together. It brings me joy to know that while I am leaving this deeply important work, it doesn’t end here. The incarcerated men and women I know continue to push for more education and classroom space at their prisons. The Evergreen faculty and graduate students continue to engage with education outside of an academic institution “bubble”. And unique and empowering spaces will continue to develop in prisons as more people become aware of the injustices associated with the U.S. criminal justice system.”

Diving Right In! Zandra Jones shares her experience from the 2015 SPP Summit.

Summit 2015 attendees and SPP staff. Photo taken by Zandra Jones

Summit 2015 attendees and SPP staff. Photo taken by Zandra Jones

by Zandra Jones, SPP Program and Administrative Assistant

On Wednesday April 23rd and Thursday April 24th, 2015, SPP hosted a Washington State Summit at The Evergreen State College (Evergreen). As a fairly new SPP staff member, the Summit was my chance to dive right into all things SPP. I personally could not have asked for a better introduction to this fantastic partnership. Not only did I spend time with a plethora of intelligent, passionate guests, I was able to spend ample time collaborating with my hardworking new colleagues to host a productive and memorable event. The two-day Summit was a major success, with more than 100 attendees from all across Washington State, as well as a few from Oregon and California.

Attendees were welcomed by Les Purce, Evergreen’s President. He delivered a motivating speech, his enthusiasm setting a positive energy for the gathering. Shortly after, Carri LeRoy, SPP Co-director and Stephen Sinclair, SPP Senior Advisor for Prisons, gave the group an SPP Statewide Overview.

Stephen Sinclair, SPP Advisor for Prisons, presents to a packed room. Photo taken by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

The Summit continued with various presentations on SPP, including the SPP Brand by Stephen Sinclair, and some of our many vital partnerships by Kelli Bush, SPP’s Program Manager. My favorite part of the first day had to be the coffee break, which was an awesome opportunity to listen in on SPP-related conversations. I heard widespread interest and dedication to the partnership.

Guests enjoying the coffee break. Photo taken by SPP staff.

My first day at the Summit was drawing to an early close due to class, but not before I was able to see Stew Henderson, the Lean Project Leader from the Governors Office, speak about Results Washington. It was exciting to see someone in such a high position so involved with sustainability and the SPP vision.

Stew Henderson, Lean Project Leader, talks about how SPP fits into state government efforts in sustainability. Photo taken by SPP Staff.

On the morning of day two I was excited to see a couple of the panels, as well as participate in one myself. I could not wait to hear more of what people had to say pertaining to the brilliant work they have done. The first panel focused on Sustainable Operations, and was introduced by Julie Vanneste, SPP’s Sustainable Operations Manager. It was the perfect opener for my panel experience.

The Sustainable Operations Panel described best practices and innovative ideas. Photo taken by SPP Staff.

The day continued with a panel on Community Contributions, introduced by Kelli Bush. I got yet another dose of SPP education and felt quite inspired! The work these people do helps tremendously with inmates’ behavior and health, and benefits the communities incarcerated people go back to in the long run. It also directly benefits the communities on the outside that are in need of bikes, wheel chairs, service dogs, and more.

Kelli Bush, SPP’s Program Manager provides a brief overview of Community Contribution programs. Photo by Zandra Jones.

 

Community Contributions Panel. Photo taken by Zandra Jones

The Community Contributions Panel included partners from programs working with dogs, growing vegetables and flowers, fixing bikes and wheelchairs, and creating crafts for the community. Photo by Zandra Jones.

In a turn of events, myself and other current Evergreen Students were called up to share a bit about ourselves and our involvement with SPP. I was so excited to be sitting in the same space as people I have come to really admire, but my nerves began taking over when I realized that theirs are tough acts to follow. I felt much more confident as the faces in the audience showed interest in what I had to say.

A Student Panel included past and present SPP program coordinators, interns, and me! Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

The remainder of day two presented us with good food, great presentations, and motivating conversations.

Gardeners from five programs held an impromptu lunchtime meeting. Photo by Zandra Jones.

After lunch, Joslyn Trivett, SPP’s Network Manager and Dorothy Trainer, Environmental Specialist, launched into the action planning process at Coyote Ridge Correctional Center.

Joslyn Trivett, SPP’s Network Manager, outlined the Action Planning Process, a way to set priorities and create work plans for SPP programs. Photo by Zandra Jones.

Next, Stephen Sinclair took the spotlight alongside Carri LeRoy to share some of SPP’s history, the direction we are hoping to go, and some new initiatives that are already in place.

Stephen Sinclair, SPP Senior Advisor for prisons talks about earlier days of SPP. Photo taken by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

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Carri LeRoy, SPP’s Co-director describes activities of the SPP Network. Photo by SPP staff.

Joslyn Trivett and Kelli Bush made another appearance to introduce the Green Track concept.

Joslyn Trivett, SPP’s Network Manager, and Kelli Bush, SPP’s Program Manager, co-present on new SPP initiatives. Photo by Zandra Jones.

Then it was the guests turn to speak up. Carl Elliott, SPP’s Conservation Nursery Manager, facilitated a seminar-like discussion. Many guests shared their ideas and answers to posed questions. I really enjoyed getting to be a part of the exchange and observing the shared passion for improvement.

Zandra Jones, SPP’s Administrative Assistant, standing next to her notes from the group discussion. Photo by Carri LeRoy.

The discussion was the perfect transition to carry us into the last segment of the Summit. Stephen Sinclair stepped up one last time to speak about the Sustainability plan for 2016-2017 and take suggestions for improvement.

Steve Sinclair, SPP's Senior Advisor for Prisons. Photo taken by SPP staff

Stephen Sinclair ends the 2 day event. Photo by SPP staff.

I am definitely looking forward to next year’s Summit. Hope there is one!

Flight of the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies

By Christina Stalnaker, SPP Graduate Research Assistant and Roots of Success Coordinator

It was a smaller crowd than usual: two males fluttered around a single female. The lighting was ideal and temperature at just the right degree for a successful pairing. As these butterflies moved in their miniature habitat, two inmate technicians quietly watched to verify if they had a fruitful engagement. We had just entered the greenhouse of the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (TCB) captive rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women on an early spring morning.

A technician waters flowers that will be placed in TCB habitats for captive rearing. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

A technician waters flowers that will be placed in TCB habitats for captive rearing. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

These butterflies were the first of their cohort to eclose, marking the beginning of TCB flight season. Eclosure is one of the final stages of a Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly’s life cycle—it occurs when the butterfly emerges from its cocoon. When the remaining butterflies join them in flight, the technicians will place two females and up to seven males in an insect habitat. Lindsey Hamilton, SPP’s TCB program coordinator, later explained to me that placing so many in the habitat at once ignites the male’s competitive behavior. In the wild, TCB males can be found next to a female pupa, waiting for her to eclose.

Having just emerged from its cocoon, a Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly patiently waits to feed on honey and take flight for the first time. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Having just eclosed (emerged from its cocoon), a Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly patiently waits to feed on honey water and take flight for the first time. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

The technicians had been waiting for us to arrive at the prison’s greenhouse to “process” two more butterflies that had just completed eclosion. The word “process” is far too ordinary to describe this next step in caring for these beautiful, endangered butterflies. Upon emergence, the butterflies patiently wait in their tiny container for at least 24 hours before feeding on honey water and taking flight. I had never handled butterflies before and was pretty nervous. Elizabeth Louie, TCB inmate technician, proudly demonstrated how to handle and process the delicate insects. After she showed me exactly what to do from start to finish, I went on to process the second TCB on my own.

Name?, TCB technician, shows Christina how to "process" an eclosed butterfly. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton,

Elizabeth Louie, TCB inmate technician, shows Christina Stalnaker how to “process” an eclosed butterfly. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

First, we recorded the ID number and color code. Next, we removed the mesh caging and the TCB from its insect cup, gently pinch its wings, and closely examined the butterfly to determine if it is a male or female. Mine was female; I could tell by looking at the tip of the abdomen. Females have a pointed tip at the end of their abdomen, whereas males’ are more rounded. After placing her on the balance, we recorded her weight. Swirling the end of a q-tip in the honey water and teasing her proboscis with a paperclip, I set her down and watched as she tasted her first drops of honey as a butterfly.

A Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly enjoys her first taste of honey water. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

A Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly enjoys her first taste of honey water. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

Once captive rearing is complete and the females finish laying their eggs, the butterflies are released to various South Sound Prairies, like the Glacial Heritage Preserve (photographed below). Here they will live the remainder of their lives, and we hope that they continue to mate and lay eggs in their native habitat to bolster populations directly.

Home of the mysterious Mima Mounds and a critical habitat for Taylor's Checkerspot Butterflies, Glacial Heritage Preserve is managed by many of our partners to ensure they continued survival of these beautiful butterflies. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Home of the mysterious Mima Mounds and a critical habitat for Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies, Glacial Heritage Preserve is intensively managed by our partners to ensure the continued survival of these beautiful butterflies. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Yellow and red flags mark areas of Glacial Heritage Preserve with prairie plants cultivated to enhance TCB habitat. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Yellow and red flags mark areas of Glacial Heritage Preserve with prairie plants cultivated to enhance TCB habitat. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Each One, Teach One

by Christina Stalnaker, SPP Roots of Success Coordinator and Graduate Research Assistant

I’ve had the privilege of working with and visiting several prison classrooms delivering the Roots of Success environmental literacy curriculum.  I’m encouraged to see inmates challenging themselves with material designed for graduate students (some lessons are similar to what we are learning in our MES core classes). Yet I am even more struck by the classroom atmosphere of teamwork and camaraderie.  These prisoners come from many different backgrounds and their identities often pit inmate against inmate.  I can’t help but ask myself: In this potentially volatile environment, how is a Roots course able to generate productive discussions?

Our dedicated education programs include monthly science and sustainability lectures at three prisons, an environmental literacy program at three others, and many vocational horticulture programs offered in partnership with community colleges and WSU Extension offices.  Photo by SPP staff.

Roots students at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) work in groups to finish assignments in their workbooks.  These activities challenge inmates to think critically about the environment. Photo by Erica Turnbull.

One unique aspect to the program is the teacher. The course is lead by inmates trained as facilitators, similar to the model for the Redemption Project. I’ve heard from pupils of both programs that they prefer to learn from other inmates. They feel the message delivered is more genuine, and not driven by authority. Chadwick Flores, Deputy Director of Roots of Success, refers to these instructors as “internal advocates.” The facilitators become supporters of sustainable practices within the prison system and inspire other offenders to work in the green economy, start green businesses, and consider how their own actions impact the environment.

Roots brings inmates from all walks of life to focus on the health of our environment. The many environmental issues we face today are sometimes overwhelming, yet they are issues that we all face. The environment is a common denominator across these diverse populations: a better future for all provides enough reason to set aside our differences and learn how to find solutions to these problems together.

Jason McDaniels teaches the Roots of Success curriculum to fellow inmates at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC). Photo by an inmate at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.

Jason McDaniels teaches the Roots of Success curriculum to fellow inmates at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC). Photo by an inmate at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.

Mr. Youngblood, Roots Instructor at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, shared with us the unique dynamic of their classroom:

Roots of Success is not about getting an A+ on a test, making the Dean’s list, or getting a degree based on the number of credits you have compiled. This is real education—student-centered learning in an environment where “Each one, Teach One” is our Mantra. The students are inspired to “be more” simply because they are involved in the process of their own learning.

In the instructors evaluation there is a question that asks: “What is the single most valuable thing you gained from teaching?”  My response follows: I was amazed at the dynamic that developed… students from different cultures, races, religious beliefs, and even gang affiliations all came together and worked as a team. That was and is truly invaluable.

Coyote Ridge's Roots instructors; Mr. Youngblood is on the right. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

Coyote Ridge’s Roots instructors stand in front of an SPP banner created by one of their peers; Mr. Youngblood is on the right. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

Inmate Blog: “Hard Time Café”

By Austin Mays, an inmate, student, and cook at Stafford Creek Correction Center

Written November, 2014

The way food is prepared is an art. From the choice to the plate, it’s all about painting a picture. I live in a world where the art is lost. The simple things that make food taste good have been removed and replaced with mayonnaise labeled as “salad dressing”. When the best part of the meal is the water, you know something’s wrong.

My name is Austin Mays and I have been eating this food since I was 15 years old. This food is in prison. You may automatically put up your guard reading this, but I encourage you to keep an open mind.

After serving 10+ years, I have seen that the price of food has increased exponentially and in turn nutritious foods have fallen out of the reach of the budget. Feeding 1900+ inmates at one facility is quite expensive.

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An inmate gardener at Cedar Creek Corrections Center talks about the fresh cucumbers he just harvested. Photo by Cyril Ruoso.

Fresh vegetables make all the difference

In 2013, I began a job that opened my eyes to the larger picture. I became chef in the “Hard Time Café”. This is the dining hall for all staff. On a daily basis I, along with three other individuals, serve anywhere from 40-60 staff members. What do we serve them? Leftovers. We dress up the meal that was previously served to the 1900 other inmates. A difference between the “Hard Time Café” and the main chow halls is the fresh vegetables. Each day, a salad bar is prepared with mushrooms, tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers, carrots, celery, fresh green leaf salad, and four premade salads. This is a lot of produce used daily.

Stafford Creek Corrections Center has been taking measurable steps in the direction towards becoming more self-sustaining. In the last four months, I have been able to use the produce grown by the sustainability garden in all of my salads and main course meals. For example, in October 2014, the garden produced close to a hundred pumpkins. Now, November, we are gearing up to make homemade pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner. Pumpkin pies are nearly $5.00 a piece and purchasing enough for 1900 inmates would hold a heavy price tag.

A pie pumpkin grows in a prison garden. Photo by Cyril Ruoso.

A pie pumpkin grows in a prison garden. Photo by Cyril Ruoso.

Prison is its own city

Living in a place where you have little outside interaction causes you to be left behind. We, in prison, fail to see the world consuming itself. I recently graduated from “Roots of Success” (an environmental literacy curriculum) and during this course my eyes were opened. Prison is its own city. The overhead is huge and anyway we can work together to create the best living conditions, by using the natural resources around us, is the best way.

Stafford Creek Corrections Center grows flowers and vegetables in every part of the prison campus. From early spring to late fall it is a multicolored display! Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Stafford Creek Corrections Center grows flowers and vegetables in every part of the prison campus. From early spring to late fall it is a multicolored display! Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Changing lifestyles

Sustainability is not about cutting cost. It’s about changing your lifestyle and taking into account the future of your children. We are a world that feels the need to consume. Why? Because our parents tried to teach us what their parents taught them. Once we prove them wrong, we write our own path and neglect to see the big picture. Instant gratification, I want what I want and I want it now.

So, next time you buy a tomato or cut an onion, think of how far it traveled, how long it took to grow, how much money was spent on labor to process it, and how much you enjoy it. Think of… the “Hard Time Café”.

September flowers bloom at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

September flowers bloom at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

A Big Thank You for the Amazing New Turtle Shed!

by Sadie Gilliom, SPP Frog and Turtle Program Coordinator

The Amazing Turtle Shed. Photo by Mr. Bruce Carley.

The Amazing Turtle Shed. Photo by Mr. Bruce Carley

The horticulture program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) needed storage for their tools, and started using the turtle program’s shed. Soon it became apparent that the turtle program would require a new turtle shed.

The project was brought up to Mr. Bruce Carley, the building maintenance education instructor from Centralia College. He decided that if they were going to build a new shed they were going to do it right! He wanted the new building to reflect the uniqueness of the program and provide a new building challenge for his inmate crew. He successfully achieved both goals!

With the leadership of Mr. Carley and inmate Noblin, they created a turtle shed masterpiece! The most magnificent aspect is the giant turtle that acts as a roof for the building. The huge turtle head was sculpted by an amazing artist, inmate Burham. This was his first 3-D piece of artwork.

Inmate Burham and his artwork. Photo by Mr. Bruce Carley

Inmate Burham and his artwork. Photo by Mr. Bruce Carley

Except for some of the roofing supplies, the building materials were re-claimed and recycled products. Thermoplastic polyolefin was used as the stretchy material on the roof and was a new building material to both the inmates and Mr. Carley. In addition, a prismatic skylight was installed. This skylight brings heat and light into the shed and was a new installation experience for the inmate crew!

Mr. Bruce Carley and the Turtle Shed Crew. Photo by Sadie Gilliom

Mr. Bruce Carley and the Turtle Shed Crew. Photo by Sadie Gilliom

Thank you so much to everyone involved in the project and for providing the turtle program with such a unique and representative structure! Thank you to Mr. Carley for your initiative, expertise, guidance and skill building! Thank you to inmate Burham for your beautiful artwork! Thank you inmate Noblin for your leadership skills! Thank you inmates Gronholz, Torres, Gosney, Wharton, Easton, Ausen, Feltus, Jackson and Link for all of your hard work! Finally, thank you Superintendent Cole and all other staff involved for your support of this project!

This shed is currently used to store turtle supplies, but in the future it will also serve as a cricket house. CCCC and SPP are currently searching for the best form of green energy to use to power the turtle shed. We will keep you posted on this exciting new venture!

SPP Bikes to Portland

By Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator

An Unexpected Journey

When I signed up to present at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference, I had no idea what was in store. Then October rolled around and I found myself on a 140 mile bike ride from Olympia to Portland, in the name of sustainability.

I wasn’t alone. Along the way, I had encouragement and support from a small group of my fellow environmental studies graduate students, including Lindsey Hamilton, the SPP Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Coordinator. When we signed up to present at the conference and committed ourselves to the bike ride, it was summer and we imagined a lovely jaunt. Unfortunately, October weather in the Pacific Northwest isn’t quite as favorable for a long bike trek, and our trip was cut short only 20 miles outside of Portland by 45 mph wind gusts and steady rain. Lindsey made a valiant effort to stick it out to the very end. She laughed as a headwind made even the down hills a struggle and gusted leaves into her face, but finally relented that conditions had become too scary. We made it to Portland feeling exhausted but accomplished, and—most of all—motivated!

Lindsey and Tiffany enthusiastically on their way to Portland. Photo by Nick Wooten.

Spreading the Word

We immediately immersed ourselves in the conference. Lindsey and I participated in the poster session and shared SPP’s model with many interested students, faculty, and staff from international universities and colleges. We presented on our experiences of being both graduate students at Evergreen and program coordinators with SPP. Many people who attended our presentation had never heard of anyone doing work quite like SPP, and they took ideas back to their campuses to share.

Lindsey and Tiffany arrive at the conference, bikes and SPP gear in hand.

The Way Home

I left the conference and Portland with a new state of mind. My own legs and willpower had gotten me so far, further than I ever thought possible, and in the process I had reduced travel emissions in a real way. On the train back to Olympia, I jotted this down in my journal, hoping to always have a reminder of this wonderful trip:

I’ve never felt such an attachment to an inanimate object like I do with my bike now. We’ve seen so much together, struggled together, explored Portland and the WA roads together. It has been an interesting 6 days of traveling without a car, from Olympia to Portland, finding my way around the city and public transit, and now back home. I’ve realized that we are capable of far more than we usually give ourselves credit for, and sometimes it just takes being in a situation where the most convenient option isn’t an option to push our choices in the right direction.

I feel refreshed and somehow stronger in myself and I’m done with those excuses for not living life by example as a true environmentalist. I’m done talking the talk but not pushing myself to lessen my impact on this planet as much as I can. I won’t be perfect, because we all have our vices, and it is a continuous process of learning and growing. But I am definitely approaching things from a different mindset now. Let’s change the world together and live in a way that makes us feel good about our choices and empowers us to recognize how much we can actually change in the world and in ourselves.

Something Annie Leonard said at the conference really hit me. She talked about how we make decisions based on our identities- how we view ourselves and how we want others to see us. We are often trapped in the identity of “powerless consumer” in our current society and that often influences the choices we make and the options we see ourselves as having. Instead, if we switch our identity and work towards recognizing when we are making decisions with that mindset and change it, we feel more empowered and start viewing our actions as self-possessed based on personal identity and not society-pressured identity. Instead of feeling powerless, we can start seeing ourselves as change-makers, movers, and citizens, and that will ultimately change the way we view our options and the way we make decisions. It is never an easy thing to recognize and shift these things in ourselves but I’m so pumped to work on this self-transformation until it becomes so typical that my mindset and actions automatically encompass this.

It is changes in myself like this one that makes me so thankful to work with the Sustainability in Prisons Project. The work I’m involved with as the SPP Lecture Series Coordinator constantly inspires growth and realizations that weren’t present in me before.

I wonder how Annie Leonard’s message relates to the inmates in SPP programs. Does being involved bring about a new identity for incarcerated people? Do they see themselves as stewards, environmentalists, scientists, and students instead of “just prisoners”? I’m excited to bring this new perspective to the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series and hear what it means to the incarcerated students that attend our lectures and workshops!

 

If you’re interested in learning more about the bike ride, check out this blog from another student who was on the trip and the intentionally dorky picture show of highlights from the trek.

 

Freedom of the Frogs!

By Sadie Gilliom, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

Frog thinking about taking the leap out of Ms. Sibley’s hand.  Photo by Sadie Gilliom

On a drizzly September morning, a diverse team of professionals gathered at a wetland in Pierce County. Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) representatives were part of the group that also included staff from Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (Northwest Trek), the Center for Natural Lands Management, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The 153 state-endangered and federally-threatened Oregon spotted frogs (Rana pretiosa) pop-corning in tubs in the middle of the group were the focus of attention, it was release day!

The frogs were released into their natural habitat with the hope of boosting the population of this struggling species. Sixty-four were reared by SPP inmate technicians at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) while the remaining frogs were reared by zoo professionals at Northwest Trek. Late winter, biologists from WDFW gathered eggs from the wild and delivered them to the facilities where they were raised with protection from predation, disease, and habitat disturbance. Over the spring and summer the tadpoles hatched and developed into frogs under the care of zoo staff and inmate technicians.

The frogs seemed to anticipate their release. They jumped excitedly in their containers as they were carried down to the site. As the team gathered at the edge of the wetland, the sun broke through the clouds, as though to wish the frogs good luck on their journey into the wild. The frogs were released with time to adapt to their natural environment before the chill of winter sets in.

The release was an opportunity to enjoy the results of everyone’s hard work, coordination, and collaboration over the rearing season. The first frogs were released by SPP Liaison and CCCC Classification Counselor, Ms. Sibley. She popped the lid off the tub and the frogs sprang into the water. Most were gone in a flash, but a few were hesitant, staring at their new world for several minutes before springing into action. Throughout the release there were shouts of glee, handshakes, and smiles as all the frogs eventually hopped to freedom.

Sadie Gilliom encouraging the last few frogs. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

It is important to acknowledge a few of the people that helped make this season successful. Thank you Fiona Edwards! Fiona completed her term as SPP’s Frog and Turtle Program Coordinator this season and trained me to take on the responsibilities of the position. I also want to acknowledge Classification Counselors Pickard and Sibley for the time and effort they invested to make the program possible at CCCC. As Mr. Pickard recently accepted a new job, Ms. Sibley capably stepped into the DOC Liaison role. We wish Mr. Pickard well in his new position and appreciate his contributions. A huge thank you to Mr. Nuss, the inmate technician working throughout the season to provide the excellent care that resulted in healthy and robust frogs on release day. Finally, thanks to Superintendent Cole for his continued, passionate support for the program.

Fiona Edwards giving a frog a pep talk. Photo by Sadie Gilliom

There are many other partners that help make the SPP frog program possible: Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Woodland Park Zoo; Marc Hayes, Tammy Schmidt, and other staff at WDFW; SPP staff and leadership; and the many others who have contributed to the effort to save this valuable indicator species! Good luck Oregon spotted frogs of 2014! We wish you a successful and prolific future!