Tag Archives: inmates

Farewell Frogs!

By Graduate Research Associate Jill Cooper

Releasing frogs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

It has been another successful season rearing Oregon Spotted Frogs at Cedar Creek Correction Center.  A total of 1,346 were released into a wetland site on Joint-Base Lewis-McChord.  The four rearing institutions (Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Northwest Trek, and Cedar Creek Corrections Center) came together to release this year’s batch of frogs into the wild; a collaborative effort to stabilize the native populations.

The Sustainable Prisons Project has been working with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Cedar Creek Correction Center (CCCC) to raise endangered Oregon Spotted Frogs since 2009. CCCC boasts having the largest frogs of any participating rearing institution, with100% of this year’s frogs large enough for release into the wild.

CCCC’s rearing success can be attributed to the amount of time and attention the offenders are able to give the frogs.  The offenders form genuine bonds with the frogs; some are given names, like “Lefty” or “NASCAR.”  The few deceased frogs have been placed in an offender-created “frog cemetery,” with hand-made gravestones.  One of the inmates patiently waits with his hand in the frog pond, and frogs will often come sit in his hand to be pet.

Cedar Creek Frog Maintenance

The day of the release, the frogs were loaded into containers and driven north to Joint-Base Lewis-McChord and their new home. CCCC is a minimum security pre-release facility, sometimes referred to as “camp,” where offenders are sent with minimal time remaining on their sentence. For participating offenders, the release of the frogs in part symbolizes their own impending release back into society.

Superintendent Doug Cole and Classification Counselor Marko Anderson of CCCC along with SPP Student Research Associates Liesl Plomski and Jill Cooper had the opportunity to release some of the frogs.  “It was a sight to see all 1,346 frogs hop into the water and instantly disappear with their well camouflaged bodies,” said Cooper.

Red coloration indicates healthy growth

Each frog has a micro-chip and will be tracked by volunteers who regularly visit the wetlands to conduct research, using special wands that detect the frogs’ signals.

At the conclusion of the release, 29 of the frog “runts” from other institutions were taken back to CCCC because they were not large enough to be released.  These frogs will be nurtured during the winter and released in the spring.  One offender says that this new batch of frogs is, “more skittish than the last;” hardly any of the frogs come sit in his hand.  Nevertheless, they are rapidly growing.  In just the past few weeks, the frogs have gained weight and are already beginning to show some red coloration. With another successful year of frog-rearing logged, the future looks bright for the Cedar Creek frog team.

Outreach at the South Sound Science Symposium

By Graduate Research Associate Jill Cooper

On October 27, 2010, former and current Sustainable Prisons Project Research Associates Liesl Plomski and Jill Cooper attended the South Sound Science Symposium on Squaxin Island where they represented SPP’s Oregon Spotted Frog Captive Rearing Project at Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Littlerock, WA.

The symposium provided an opportunity to network within the South Sound’s scientific community and spread the word about the great success SPP conservation projects have experienced in the past year.  Plomski and Cooper presented a scientific poster at the symposium describing the Project, garnering  interest in the Project from symposium goers.

The symposium proved to be a great outreach and learning opportunity for Sustainable Prisons Project staff and event attendees. “It was wonderful to see the wide array of cutting-edge environmental work being done in the Puget Sound area,” Cooper said.

Building a Bridge

In our last entry we wrote to tell you that funding for the Sustainable Prisons Project (SPP) was cut as a result of significant budget cuts within the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) and throughout the state. Since we received the news, Sustainable Prisons Project students and staff have been working hard to identify alternative funding sources.

We are pleased to report our first major success. The Evergreen State College (TESC) has provided “bridge funding” from reserves of the Academic Division. This will serve as a temporary bridge to give us “breathing space” through June 2011. It will provide enough support to: maintain our basic operations; provide one science lecture per month (rotated among our current corrections centers); support one graduate student; and initiate a green collar training program in arboriculture. It will also allow us to: maintain our website; connect with the media; and write grant proposals to foundations and individuals to further support and extend our work.

Our Co-leader, Dan Pacholke (WDOC), has extended the reassurance that the WDOC will continue to support this work with available staff effort, access to inmates and facilities, and guidance in shaping our program for the future. We have also been working with our conservation partners — at The Nature Conservancy, the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Zoo Foundation, and the Department of Defense — to augment their current funding so that we can sustain our current commitments of raising endangered frogs, prairie plants, and rare butterflies to enhance regional biodiversity and provide training for inmates.

Despite this funding setback, awareness of our project expands. Just yesterday, we learned that our project has been featured on the website of the National Science Foundation – a piece produced by Science Nation, which was filmed at Stafford Creek Corrections Center this summer. It captures very well our vision of linking offenders with science and conservation directly, and the benefits that accrue to all involved. Here is the link: http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/sciencebehindbars.jsp

During these difficult economic times, it has been warming to witness people stepping forward to help as much as they can. We have received hundreds of notes and responses to the WDOC termination announcement on our blog from people around the country and around the world, stating their support for the project, and their desire for it to continue. We will work hard to find ways to keep our program moving forward in the short and the long term.

Coming Full Circle

Posted by Graduate Research Associate Carl Elliot

The long-term goal of the prairie plant nursery project at Stafford Creek Correction Center (SCCC) is to produce seed to be used in restored South Salish Sea prairie ecosystems.  All of the plants grown at the SCCC nursery are planted out on Joint Base Ft. Lewis-McChord at the seed nursery production unit. Additional seed production beds are at Washington State Department of Natural Resources Webster Nursery. This month the offenders received hundreds of pounds of seed from this nursery to hand clean in preparation for the fall sowing season.  The work provided an excellent opportunity to participate in the full circle of restoration activities.

Lupines were the genus of focus for this stage of the seed cleaning project. The Sustainable Prison Project (SPP) staff delivered bags of seed and chaff of Lupinus albicaulis, Lupinus lepidus, and Lupinus bicolor for cleaning. Cleaning these seeds is a satisfying activity because with a little work they produce a hefty amount of seed. Lupines provide important ecological services as nectar sources and larval food for the Puget Blue Butterfly (Icaricia iracioides blackmorei). They also facilitate the growth of other prairie plants by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. SPP staff led a workshop to educate offenders on the ecological contributions of lupines and basic seed cleaning protocols.

Using a cookie sheet to clean seed

The offenders created a number of unique means to process the seed with improvised tools that they had on hand. Large industrial cookie sheets were turned into shaker tables that allowed the larger seed to roll out and separate from the lighter chaff above. After that initial cleaning, other offenders used the hand sifters we provided to fine clean the seed. Using hand lenses, we identified larval and young adult seed weevils (Thychius germar) that were mixed in with the lupine seed, and dispatched of them humanely. Over the next month offenders are going to build seed screens in the wood shop so we can quickly process seed in larger quantities, and move on to processing wet seed such as Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea and Viburnum ellipticum.

Seeds

Working together

Offenders Prepare for Frog Release

Posted by Graduate Research Associate Liesl Plomski

Offenders at Cedar Creek Corrections Center have been preparing their Oregon spotted frogs to be released in late September at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  In this process each frog must be weighed, measured, pit tagged, and photographed. Pit tags are little chips that are inserted under the skin which can be scanned to reveal an ID number. Following release into the wild biologists can recapture frogs, scan the tag, and identify individuals.  Once they have identified an individual frog, scientists compare the frog’s weight and size prior to release with current weight and size.  These measurements help the biologist assess the individual’s health and may provide an indication of their ability to survive in their natural habitat.  If a frog has lost the pit tag, it is possible to identify them from their photo. Each Oregon spotted frog has a unique spotting pattern on its back.  Preparing the frogs for release is one more way offenders at Cedar Creek are contributing to scientific research and assisting with the recovery of Oregon spotted frogs.


WA Dept of Fish & Wildlife Biologist Marc Hayes collecting data


Oregon spotted frog photo for identification post-release

Nalini Receives Education Award

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni received an Education Award from Washington Correctional Association for her innovative work as Co-Director of the Sustainable Prisons Project.  The annual award recognizes “an individual or agency employed in academia, who has enhanced the success of corrections programs, or furthered the aims of corrections through excellence in education.”  Established in 1913, the Washington Correctional Association (WCA) is a professional organization that serves as a forum for corrections.  Nalini is honored to be recognized as the recipient of this year’s award, particularly as it highlights our continued effort to blend the lines between academia, science, and prisons.

Nalini at Washington Correction Association Awards

Change is in the Air!

Posted by Graduate Research Associate Carl Elliot

The nursery infrastructure (greenhouse, hoophouse, water, power) and the original garden area at Stafford Creek Correction Center is being moved across the central facilities area this month. At first this task may seem a bit demoralizing, deconstructing buildings and digging up growing plants to only leave empty space behind. However, the offenders remain upbeat and active, carefully tending to the transplants and picking out their favorite flowers and vegetables to relocate. The promise of more room for the gardens and nursery, as well as an updated infrastructure, is an added incentive to get them through the hard work. The cool maritime cloud layer that has been especially persistent this year helps minimize transplant shock for both people and plants.

Temporary Home for Prairie Plants

Temporary Home for Prairie Plants

The moving process not only adds to the physical workload, but also has provided intellectual challenges for the offenders. A number of them have contributed to the design and layout of the new garden, as well as providing detailed design assistance with the greenhouse. They are making sure the internal drainage system is improved, the water supply system is more efficient, and that the movement of materials such as flats and finished plants takes less work and physical strain.

The staff and offenders have put in a lot of hours above and beyond the call of duty to make sure this late summer move is an opportunity and not a loss.

Greenhouse With no Walls

Greenhouse With no Walls

Lectures Captivate Offenders at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW)

Posted by Graduate Research Associate Sarah Clarke

In September 2009 we kicked off a science and sustainability lecture series at the WCCW in Gig Harbor, WA. Included as part of a yearly Women’s Health Conference titled “The Mind, the Spirit, the Environment Maintained, Equals a Healthy Body Sustained,” our lectures there on Trees and Human Health as well as Toxics and the Environment started what has become a popular series for offenders at the WCCW.  Now, 10 months into this series, we recently noted the diversity of presentations we’ve been able to offer at WCCW.

Sarah Clarke, Research Associate, speaks to offenders at WCCW at the conference held in September 2009

Sarah Clarke, Research Associate, speaks to offenders at WCCW at the conference held in September 2009

Each facility in the Washington Department of Corrections is a little different, and we adjust lecture series accordingly.   From the start, staff and offenders at WCCW tasked us to find lectures that integrate the personal health aspects with the environmental aspects of sustainability. This unusual and challenging task has turned out to be very fruitful as it has led to a diverse mix of guest lecturers and topics.

Lectures have included such topics as Poetry and Sustainability, Yoga and Sustainability, Ethnobotany, and more traditional science and sustainability lectures like Nearshore Restoration in Puget Sound, Salmon in the Pacific Northwest, Beyond Waste in Washington State: Reducing Toxic/Solid Waste and Reusing Organic Waste, and Wolves: Endangered Species Ecology, Conservation, and Wildlife-Related Jobs. Future topics include Biology and Ecology of Brown Bears and Purple Martin and Western Bluebird Conservation.  

Frequently during lectures we (SPP staff, inmates, and officers) reflect on the maxim “we will not fight to save what we do not love.”  As organizers, we feel we have helped offenders not only understand the science of restoration, salmon, and wolves, but also to further their love of the plants and animals native to the Northwest.  Offenders consistently show a deep level of curiosity as they ask insightful and unique questions, exhausting available Q&A time.

Growing Plants and Potential: Stafford Creek Nursery Project

Carl Elliott, one of our Graduate student Research Associates, has been documenting his work with the project since April.  The following are a few of his entries.
Introduction

4/01/2010

Throughout the spring of 2010, the Cargill Fellowship supported the Sustainable Prisons Project staffing in the nursery at Stafford Creek Corrections Center.  We wanted to create a learning environment where incarcerated men gain the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to participate in the emerging green economy.  The nursery project provides a framework to clearly explain important ecological principles related to sustainability.  Additionally, the nursery skills provided in the training can be transferred to numerous other job pathways after the inmate’s release. Inmates also build significant confidence as they produce real products that will assist other agencies in restoring a threatened landscape. The concrete success in growing plants for restoration is inspiring for incarcerated individuals who have not often had many concrete successes in their lives. 1.CNTRGRD_6_17

Seed Cleaning

4/18/2010
The Sustainable Prisons Project developed a curriculum for offenders curriculum for the offenders involved in the nursery program, which complimented the production schedule of the nursery.  Before offenders could understand the importance of nursery work, they needed to understand the context of why restoration is needed on south Puget Sound prairies. We held a number of informal workshops this month where we cleaned seed or prepared the sowing flats and soil.  This allowed a lot of time just to discuss restoration and humans impact on natural ecosystems.  The offenders discussed and debated amongst themselves, questioning “what is the definition of ecological restoration?”  This discussion led to lead to questions about why restoration is even needed. The South Puget Sound prairies are anthropogenic ecosystems, affected by human activities.  Though soil, climate and biotic factors play a role in the ecosystem, the primary driver influencing the prairie ecosystem state is periodic fires, lit by humans.  With a return to prairie burn regimes on South Puget Sound prairies instituted by The Nature Conservancy and Joint Base Fort Lewis McChord, the nursery project will be able to supply need plants and seed to return forb diversity to the prairies. 2.Riparian_Seeds.jpg

Practical Nursery Techniques

5/19/2010

The offenders, DOC staff and SPP staff worked on practical nursery techniques this month.  The details of cultivating wild plants provide a lesson in patience that growing that pansies and petunias do not.  Wild plants do not germinate with the same regularity and consistency as cultivated plants and their germination and stratification protocols are not as well documented as the economically important cultivated species. This year over 380,000 prairie and riparian plants of 30 species are being sown, germinated and cultivated at Stafford Creek.  Each species has unique stratification, handling, sowing and cultivation requirements.  This diversity of protocols has presented challenges in communication and documentation and both offenders and staff have shown that they are up to the task.  Everyone involved has learned there is both an art and a science to cultivating wild plant species.  We have been greatly assisted by our partners at The Nature Conservancy of Washington, who have provided protocols developed at their Shotwell’s Landing Nursery.  TNC staff came out this month to do a workshop and provide quality control to make sure that all the prairie plants are being grown to their specifications.

 3.GREENH_5_13

Plants Up and Growing

6/17/2010

Our nursery work has progressed well this spring. We are about one halfway through the sowing process.  Most of the plants sown to date are slow growing and erratic germinators. Prairie forbs such as Lomatium nudicale, Lomatium utriculatum, Viola adunca and Castilleja hispida have germinated at rates around 20% and we should expect twice that rate over the next four to six weeks.  The majority of plants will go into the restoration sites from October to January when the rains come (of course this year as of June, the rains have not stopped). The offenders are monitoring germination rates between the plants in the green house that have temperatures higher temperatures than the hoop house which also has a greater range of temperatures from daytime to nighttime.  The process of detailed record keeping coupled with producing almost 400, 000 plants has been a challenge. SPP staff has provided templates and education on keeping accurate field journals to each offender.  As a project, we hope to collectively create documented plant production protocols that would raise the inmate’s participation from simply labor to one of being active stakeholders in the restoration process.  This is also providing interesting data that helps us understand which plants grow faster, in what environments. 

4.POGL_5_13

Offenders take college credit at Evergreen

Posted by Graduate Research Associate Liesl Plomski

Cedar Creek Correction Center inmate, Charles Butts, recently completed a 2 credit research paper on photovoltaic cells with The Evergreen State College. Charles is our first incarcerated student to construct an independent learning contract through The Evergreen State College. Under the guidance of faculty sponsor, Peter Impara, Charles was able to author a paper on the history and current technology of photovoltaic cells. Charles has a background as an electrician and hopes to continue to study solar energy and to open his own business installing energy saving products upon his release. This accomplishment could not have been achieved without the support of Correctional Counselor, Marko Anderson.

Liesl Plomski (SPP staff), Charles Butts (offender and student), Peter Impara (Evergeren State College faculty) and Marko Anderson (Cedar Creek Correctional Center staff) celebrate as Charles completes requirements to receive college credits

Liesl Plomski (SPP Student & Staff), Charles Butts (offender and student), Peter Impara (Evergreen State College faculty) and Marko Anderson (Cedar Creek Corrections Center staff) celebrate as Marko finishes his coursework and receives college credits

 

Charles has opened to door for more incarcerated students to follow. An incarcerated student from the Washington Corrections Center for Women will begin an independent learning contract on recycling this summer, under the guidance of faculty sponsor, Karen Gaul. The Sustainable Prisons Project hopes to support more incarcerated students in the pursuit of sustainable knowledge in the future.