Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cedar Creek Gardens

By Mr. Anglemyer, inmate technician for the SPP Frog and Turtle Program

The dog days of summer have almost gone which means that it is harvest time for some of the vegetables that are growing here at Cedar Creek Corrections Center.

The gardens are tended by inmates and all the food grown goes to the institution’s kitchen for inmates to eat. Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, corn, peppers, lettuce, beans, squash and pumpkins are all being prepared in the kitchen. There’ll even be a small amount of tomatoes and strawberries.

Cedar Creek Gardens Ready to Harvest. Photo by Joslyn Trivett

Cedar Creek Gardens Ready to Harvest. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

Last year inmates grew close to twenty thousand pounds of produce. All this food will never see the inside of a can. It has all been grown organically — no pesticides or chemical fertilizers have been used in the growing process. Most of the compost used to amend the soil was made at the prison using leftover kitchen scraps (except for a layer of mushroom compost that was obtained locally).

Adding Cedar Creek Compost to the Soil. Photo by SPP Staff.

Adding Cedar Creek Compost to the Soil. Photo by SPP Staff.

The food will be a welcome change from the normal fare of processed, frozen, canned or bagged produce that is the norm in prisons. It is unfortunate that fresh produce only lasts for a few months, but three months is better than zero months; especially when some inmates among the population haven’t had access to fresh food for years — or even decades. The difference between organically grown garden fresh produce and the frozen, dyed, and chemically grown/preserved stuff is night and day.

Rhubarb Growing Along the Fence. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

Rhubarb Growing Along the Fence. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

There are some extra challenges this year due to the drought. We’re worried about water usage here just like everybody else on the west coast, but hopefully the lack of water won’t have a huge effect on crop yields. The inmates are doing a great job of using water efficiently and of recapturing where they can.

Many of us in the population are extremely grateful to the guys from the horticulture program whom work in the gardens, as well as the people at Centralia College and the Sustainability in Prisons Project who do their part in making the gardens possible. Fresh food makes the late summer and fall seasons here at Cedar Creek a special time.

Buzzing With Success: Bees Help Inmates Learn Marketable Skills, Build Self-Esteem

By Andrew Garber, DOC Communications
Photos by Kelli Bush, SPP Program Manager

LITTLEROCK – Jack Boysen grew up afraid of bees, yet here he is sticking his hand in the middle of a buzzing hive.


Beekeeping technician Mr. Mr. Anglemyer describes beekeeping to the King 5 cameraman.

The puffy, white, head-to-toe beekeeper suit he’s wearing helps, as does a hand-held smoker that puts the bees in a subdued state. “When you don’t use smoke, you don’t have a good day,” Boysen advises.

Still, Boysen says he never would have contemplated walking into a swarm of bees a few years ago.

Being in prison changed his mind.“I’ve had a lot of jobs in DOC. Janitor, cook, plumber, electrician and out of all the jobs I’ve had over the years, this is the most rewarding because you feel like you are doing something not only for your own benefit, but also the rest of the world,” he said.

“You have the opportunity to actually advance yourself when you get out of here,” said Boysen, 29, who is projected for release in 2017. “You have the potential to turn this into a career when you get out.”


Technicians Angelmeyer and Boysen attend to the hives, checking on the bees’ health of the bees while they describe what they have learned about beekeeping.

The Cedar Creek Corrections Center runs a beekeeper training program in conjunction with the Sustainability in Prisons Project, (SPP), a partnership between the Department of Corrections and The Evergreen State College, and the Olympia Beekeepers Association.

Boysen learned about the program from his classification counselor, Gina Sibley, and signed up with another inmate at the prison to take a six-week course last year that teaches the basics of beekeeping. Since then, he’s been helping tend bee hives at the prison.

The work involves donning his white suit once a week, with its tight-fitting gloves and netted hood that zips shut to keep out the bees. Then Boysen and another offender light up a metal smoker that burns wood chips or pine needles, and they head for the hives.

They puff smoke and gingerly pull out wooden racks that contain the bees and their honey. The inmates are checking on the health of the bees, which are prone to various pests and diseases. They also want to see if a new hive is forming.

“Through monitoring, we discovered a hive was starting to split and they actually created a queen cell and were creating a new queen,” Boysen said recently, while holding a rack crawling with bees to look for a queen. “So we took that out of the box and made a new hive out of it because when they do that, it means they’re getting ready to swarm.”

During the summer, the inmates and a correctional officer, Glenn Epling, who assists them, take honey-laden racks to a small centrifuge in a shed behind the prison that spins just fast enough to force out the honey without damaging the cones. The racks are then put back into the hives for the bees to refill.


Officer Epling shows the reporters the liquid gold produced by Cedar Creek’s beekeeping program.


Officer Epling shares his expertise and excitement about working with the hives.

One worker bee, which lives around six weeks, produces about 1⁄12th of a teaspoon of honey during its lifetime, said Laurie Pyne, with the Olympia Beekeepers Association. So if you ever buy an 8-ounce bottle of honey in a store, it likely took the lives of more than 500 bees to fill the jar.


Olympia Beekeeping Association president Laurie Pyne consults with beekeepers at Stafford Creek Corrections Center following a lecture.

Boysen thinks about the living he could make from raising bees.

“It’s kind of hard for us to get jobs out there, if you have an extensive record,” said Boysen, who is serving time for multiple convictions including theft and possession of a controlled substance. “With this, for a couple hundred dollars you can get a hive together.

“Then you get two hives and three. You can get almost five gallons of honey off one hive in a year. If you market it in small honey bears, it actually gives you a pretty decent income,” he said, while pulling out a rack to take to the centrifuge.

“We’re basically robbing the bees,” he said. “But this is definitely legal.”

Epling, who tends several hives at his own home in addition to working with offenders at the prison, said that two inmates who were released last year are now raising bees on the outside. “And it sounds like we have a future here with these inmates,” he said of the offenders he’s teaching now. “It’s a good thing. It works for everybody.”

Joslyn Rose Trivett, who works for Sustainability in Prisons Project at The Evergreen State College, said one of the SPP’s goals is to teach offenders marketable skills they can use on the outside, as well as help build up their self-esteem while in prison.

“A lot of the people who are incarcerated are struggling with the feeling of being thrown away and discarded by society,” she said.


SPP Network Manager Joslyn Rose Trivett interviews with the King5 reporters.

The beekeeper program and others like it can show offenders “there is value in every material and every resource and every animal and plant and certainly in every person,” she said.

Read more: KING5 story.

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


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.

SCCC Roots graduates whole room

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.


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


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.


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.


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!