Tag Archives: sustainability

First Beekeeping Certification in-prison for SPP-WA

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Master Beekeeper Renzy Davenport of the Olympia Beekeepers Association and the Pierce County Beekeepers spent six Thursday evenings with a class of inmates and staff at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. At the seventh meeting, he certified all students as Apprentice Beekeepers. As far as we know, this is the first in-prison beekeeping certification program in Washington state, and we hope it will be the first of many.

A newly-certified beekeeper receives recognition from Renzy Davenport of the Olympia Beekeepers Association. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

A newly-certified beekeeper receives recognition from Renzy Davenport of the Olympia and Pierce County Beekeepers Associations. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

The classes conveyed all the fundamentals of beekeeping, including how to build up colonies without buying more bees. Renzy provided practical guidance on how to turn beekeeping into a business. At an earlier class, the students sampled several varieties of honey and learned how to create the more tasty varieties—no one was very interested in how to achieve a “buckwheat honey,” as they thought it smelled like wet dog, but the raspberry and wildflower varieties were popular!

For those at Cedar Creek in the spring, they will have the chance to work with the in-prison hives. During the winter months, the bees are quiet and cannot be disturbed, but starting in April there will be plenty to do to care for the bees and their hives.

The first class of certified beekeepers at Cedar Creek Corrections Center pose with their certificates. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

The first class of certified beekeepers at Cedar Creek Corrections Center pose with their certificates. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

Many thanks to Renzy for donating his time to teach the program, and to all the students and administrative support at the prison. Thanks to Fiona Edwards for attending the certification ceremony so we could help celebrate this first beekeeping class.

House plants: A new way to bring nature inside at Larch Corrections Center

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Photos by Danette Gadberry, AA4 at Larch Corrections Center

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An inmate at Larch Corrections Center (LCC) shows off spider plant babies from his collection of house plants.

This past spring, I received a letter from an inmate at Stafford Creek Corrections Center asking for support of program to bring house plants into inmates’ living units. While we were unable to make the program work at that prison, I have kept his proposal in mind: it seems an elegant and relatively simple way to “bring nature inside.” I have hoped that we would find a facility willing to pilot a house plant program, and now I discover that a pilot is already underway: Larch has house plants!

Larch Corrections Center (LCC) is a minimum security prison northeast of Vancouver, Washington, and the 40 acre campus is surrounded by National Forest land. I toured the facility for the first time last month and was impressed to see a wide array of sustainability programming, including large-scale composting and recycling (operational for ten years), staff-led waste reduction in the kitchen, and off-campus food production for a local food bank. When we visited a living unit, I was focused on seeing the cat program and missed the house plants. So glad to know about them now!

LCC was the first prison in Washington state to eliminate trash can liners, now standard practice in our prisons and saving the state thousands of dollars and resources. Once again, they are leading the way.

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An inmate displays a variety of house plants next to his window; a cat toy is also visible.

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An inmate displays a house plant in his room at LCC. The shelves behind him are for the feline resident of the room.

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A cat in LCC’s feline program enjoys a high perch.

Bountiful gardens at Washington Corrections Center for Women

By Melissa R. Johnson, Administrative Assistant, Washington Corrections Center for Women

Program director Ed Tharp in the garden at Washington Corrections Center for Women.Gig Harbor, Wash.—Emphasizing the importance of sustainability, the horticulture program at Washington Corrections Center for Women provides an opportunity for offenders to enroll as Tacoma Community College students in order to learn job skills and gain important experience in nursery operations and floral design. So far this year, the gardens have produced 9,365 pounds of vegetables that were harvested and then prepared and served in the offender kitchen—and it’s still growing.

“This is one of the most gratifying jobs I have ever had,” said program director Ed Tharp. “One of the things I enjoy the most is seeing the ladies succeed when they get out.”

The facility’s horticulture department employs 10 students as teacher assistants who are responsible for the planting and harvesting of the gardens. Currently 51 students are enrolled in horticulture and 14 are enrolled in organic farming. Horticulture students learn about sustainable gardening, vegetable gardening, plant propagation, commercial greenhouses, floral design, floral shop operation and integrated pest management, just to name a few.  Organic farming students have the opportunity to work on an outside crew at Mother Earth Farm, an organic farm in Puyallup.

Canyon Little, Mother Earth Farm manager, said her farm has been able to produce about 148,000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables on nearly eight acres of land in the Puyallup Valley. She told Tharp she was “impressed with how hard each of the offenders worked on every visit, and how they were eager to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired through their education.”

The garden at Washington Corrections Center for Women“Because each offender demonstrated a high capacity of responsibility for day-to-day farm activities, I decided to assign special projects for each lady,” Little said. “The project idea was a way for the offenders to take ownership of the farm, learn something new and educate each other on their respective projects. Being a part of the learning process was an enriching experience as a manager, and I look forward to working with Washington Corrections Center for Women to explore new boundaries, build knowledge and experiences and work together to fight hunger.”

Mother Earth Farm works with the Emergency Food Network by supplying fresh produce to 74 local food banks, hot-meal sites and shelters in Pierce County. Other produce was sent to the Cannery Project in Kent, which converted the donations into more than 1000,000 cans of fruits and vegetables.

Washington Corrections Center for Women is excited to see what next year will hold. Next year’s garden is already planned and the seeds are ordered.

The Women’s Village: A Source of Change for Incarcerated Women

By Rowlanda Cawthon, Washington Department of Corrections,  East Team Leader, Communications

Associate Superintendent Margaret Gilbert, center, with members of the Women's Village at Washington Corrections Center for Women

Principles behind the mantra, “It takes a village to raise a child,” have been adopted by a group of dedicated offenders at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. Both offenders and staff at the prison wanted to foster a positive community environment and propel women to shift their thinking, so they formed the Women’s Village group to develop an approach that would change the prison culture.

With the cuts to offender programming, the women realized the need to tap existing resources to foster a sense of growth, collaboration and commitment. “The Women’s Village has been a great way for the women to really start thinking about their lives and how they can influence each other,” said Associate Superintendent Margaret Gilbert. “We’ve managed to get some staff on board and we are certain this project can change the culture of the prison.”

The mission of the Women’s Village is, “To encourage and foster an atmosphere of change by harnessing our unique strengths together as individuals and to create a new culture based on the pursuit of personal excellence.” The term Women’s Village was created by Psychology Associate Robert Walker and offenders developed the purpose, values and structure of the program. “The project offers the women a unique opportunity to share their personal experiences and knowledge to inspire each other to change and make positive contributions to the community in which they all live — the prison,” said Walker.

A village council serves the Women’s Village in an advisory and governing capacity to provide leadership and direction. There are ten women on the council who work incredibly hard to create a healthier prison atmosphere. Their criminal backgrounds vary as do their custody levels, but this doesn’t hinder their unified commitment.

Jeannette Murphy who has been incarcerated for 28 years firmly believes that the Women’s Village is a practical resource.  “One goal of the village is to keep the women busy,” said Murphy. “If we can help keep the women busy and assist them in finding their passion, we can address problems before they escalate and greatly reduce violence. We can work together to prevent another Jayme Biendl incident from occurring where we live.”

As the project evolved, the women unanimously agreed that they needed to identify their passions and create work opportunities around what genuinely made them happy. This resulted in the formation of nine sub–councils that serve as a means to get women engaged in something bigger than themselves.

  • Violence Reduction Team – Responsible for gauging the prison environment and identifying ways to reduce violence.
  • Health and Wellness Team – Facilitates wellness classes to include women’s health, nutrition and daily health routines.
  • Educational Team – Assist offenders with their educational needs and work with offenders who have learning disabilities to help them achieve their goals.
  • Environmental Team – Creates sustainable programs and get women involved in creating a sustainable environment.
  • Peer Support Team – Help offenders who need assistance in dealing with the realities of prison life. Peer mentors also work directly with mental health staff.
  • Morale Building Team – Bring back a sense of order and respect within the prison by promoting a positive change in the way women deal with their feelings.
  • Reentry Team – Facilitates programs that will help with the reentry process including but not limited to job readiness classes, resume workshops and dressing for success.
  • Spiritually Team – Gives women a chance to explore a variety of beliefs and become more in tune with their own, whatever they may be.
  • Family Support – Facilitates parenting groups, create positive ways to build on family relationships, and host workshops centered on family dynamics.

Each team is lead by a council member who has a sincere passion for the work required. Women interested in the Women’s Village must officially become a village member by participating in three orientations, two accountability circles, and committing to engage in two self–help groups or classes offered at the prison.

The orientations are lead by the council members and staff, and give an overview of the purpose and values of the Women’s Village. The women are also given an opportunity during orientation to develop personal goals that will enable them to create a vision of who they are and who they are becoming. Accountability circles provide the women with an opportunity to meet regularly to discuss issues or problems they are facing, to set goals to address these issues, and to brainstorm ways to accomplish the goals.

“We are a group of women who want more for ourselves and we want the women around us to feel the same way,” said Offender Renee Curtiss. “Having women believe in you and hold you accountable is the key to changing attitudes and behaviors, and that’s what we are all about.”

The values of the program are respect, honesty, compassion, diversity, self–empowerment, education and usefulness. These beliefs have been the driving forces behind the members’ ability to assist offenders in transitioning from intensive management unit to less restrictive custody, developing recycling and gardening programs, and simply getting women to be a source of change for each other within prison walls.

Celebration and Transition

Celebration and Transition

By SPP Project Manager Kelli Bush

The Sustainable Prisons Project (SPP) recently celebrated another year with our many wonderful partners.  The event, held on a cool summer evening at the Olympia Farmer’s Market, featured a wide range of guest speakers representing various aspects of the Sustainable Prisons Project.  Speakers from Department of Corrections, Joint Base Lewis McChord, The Evergreen State College (TESC), Center for Natural Land Management, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and a prison volunteer each spoke about the significance of SPP from their perspective.

 

The event was also an opportunity to honor out-going Co-Director and Co-Founder of the SPP, Dr. Nalini Nadkarni.  Nalini has accepted a position at University of Utah as the Director of the Center for Science and Math Education.  She will remain involved with SPP as Senior Advisor.  Nalini is also continuing work to share SPP with other states, including at her new location in Utah.

 

We also welcomed new SPP Co-Director Dr. Carri LeRoy.  Carri began working with the SPP team in April and she officially began her new role as SPP Co-Director July 1st.  She is a stream ecologist and a member of the Masters of Environmental Studies faculty at Evergreen.  Carri is an excellent addition to the team and we look forward to continuing the Project with her leadership.

 

After a year filled with declining budgets we are extremely grateful to our partners, students, TESC staff, foundations, and grant funding sources that helped keep this project going.  We are excited to see what the next year brings!

 

To donate to the SPP and help bring conservation into Washington prisons, click here.

Blooming Inside the Walls

Blooming Inside the Walls

By Graduate Research Associate Carl Elliott from Stafford Creek Corrections Center

Surrounded by acres of Douglas-fir forest and behind razor wire security fences, a garden tended by the offenders at Stafford Creek Corrections Center is flourishing. Their efforts to cultivate food and flowers has altered the landscape and nourished the spirit of those involved.  These men asked me to provide a documentation of the garden for their families on the outside.  I thought that this service alone was worth providing, but I also feel others outside the prison fence should have the opportunity to see and hear about the garden.

The spring weather on the coast of Washington this year was unusually cool and cool nights persist through July. Night temperatures have rarely stayed above 50° F. The cool weather caused heat loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, and squash to languish.  However, crops such as broccoli, cabbage, peas, and carrots have exploded with growth. The offenders are gathering buckets full of carrots and peas to share with the prison kitchen.

All of the flower gardens were designed by the offenders. They paid special attention to creating habitat for insect pollinators. The plant families they cultivated in the pollinator garden were from the pink or catchfly family, the sunflower family, the pea family, and the mallow family. These plants provide nectar, pollen, and insect prey for beneficial insects.  This is important because the garden is surrounded by concrete which provides poor pollinator habitat.

The other flower gardens include a cutting garden and a native prairie garden. The flowers from the cutting garden are used to beautify the visitor room in the summer. This allows friends and family to see the fruits of the men’s labors and make for a beautiful reception for visitors. The native prairie plant garden overflows with species from the conservation nursery. By seeing the plants they are cultivating for restoration, the men can begin to learn plant families and plant community associations found on the prairies.

The whole garden sits amidst a sea of concrete. Originally, it was a turf covered turn-around for delivery trucks.  Staff grounds keeper, Jon Rydman, took the initiative to open up the space for the men to garden there two years ago.  After a great amount of initial effort to cut the sod, lay the irrigation, and form the beds, the garden was started.  Soil fertility has been improved by compost generated from prison kitchen waste. This unique in-vessel composting system is a pilot project coordinated by plant manager, Chris Idso.  Creating a flourishing garden in a Correction Center requires cooperation and coordination among staff.  The garden produces more than vegetables and flowers; it is also a place for education and change.

To donate to the SPP programs at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, click here.

 

WCCW Winter Lecture Series a Success

 By Graduate Research Associate Alicia LeDuc

SPP’s winter Science and Sustainability Lecture Series at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) in Gig Harbor, Washington marked another successful season of scientific outreach, with over 50 WCCW offenders and staff attending the lectures.  The series focused on sustainable food practices and featured speakers from local non-profit agencies. 

 November:  Food Cooperatives and Cob Construction

Diana Pisco, The Olympia Food Co-Op

 Diana Pisco began the series with a presentation on food cooperatives and cob construction, a sustainable building method involving clay, straw, and basic tools. A former volunteer at WCCW, Pisco said she, “wanted to share what motivates me, to inspire these women about sustainability, local food production, and cobbing – something they could find very therapeutic as well as offer a skill they could use when they get out.”  Cob construction techniques stimulated lively conversation, with one offender sharing that she had built her house using this method. The offenders’ enthusiasm inspired Pisco to donate books to the prison’s library.

December: Edible Forest Gardens

Michael Kelly, Terra Commons

Michael Kelly introduced edible forest gardens, a landscaping technique that mimics a forest ecosystem and supports naturally high yields of produce.  WCCW horticulture students engaged Kelly in scientific conversation about the plants and techniques featured, comparing them with the prison’s program.  Kelly left offenders with printed resources about forest gardens, possible career paths, and ideas of how WCCW can implement sustainable practices in their gardens.

January: Organic Farming

Lydia Beth Leimbach, Left Foot Organics

Lydia Beth Leimbach spoke on organic farming.  Her experience on the farm with offender work crews from Cedar Creek Corrections Center encouraged her to partner with SPP for the second time this season. “I see the need for giving prisoners skills and education so that they have a chance to positively contribute to society when they get out,” she said.  WCCW has an on-site organic garden, and Leimbach’s presentation was directly applicable to the work many offenders are doing right now.  The topic also attracted two DOC staff members to attend the lecture series for the first time.

February: Native Plant Restoration

Ben Alexander and Amee Bahr, Sound Native Plants

Ben Alexander and Amee Bahr concluded the series with a discussion on restoration, described as an ecological act on behalf of the future with respect to the past. “We all have challenges in our lives, and we can move past them,” Bahr said. WCCW hopes to start a conservation  project that will provide offenders with experience in native plant horticulture.  Sharing SPP’s commitment to education, the Alexander and Bahr created a horticulture career development resource for the offenders. Alexander said he, “wanted to convey…that each individual can have an important positive impact even when working on a small local scale.”  He hopes the presentation will inspire offenders to make positive contributions to their community and environment when they leave prison.

Good News

By Graduate Research Associate Alicia LeDuc

The Sustainable Prisons Project (SPP) is in the news! We have received extensive press coverage from media sources nationwide. The common threads emphasized by all are the innovative nature and the collaborative mode of the work that have contributed to the inspiring success of the SPP. Click on the links below — and feel free to provide your comments.

KBTC Northwest Now: Click here to watch the episode

Northwest Now’s Daniel Kopec hosts SPP Project Co-Director Dan Pacholke, Project Manager Kelli Bush and Cedar Creek Corrections Center Superintendent Douglas Cole to explore how the unique collaboration between the DOC and The Evergreen State College is addressing some of Washington’s pressing social and scientific concerns.

KBTC Full Focus: Being Green: Click here to watch the episode

This episode of Full Focus takes a look at how the Sustainable Prisons Project is engaging offenders in the rearing of endangered frogs and the inspiring stories that have resulted.

KCTS 9 Connects: Click here to watch the episode

KCTS 9 reporter Leslie McClurg takes the show behind bars when she visits the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, Washington to discover how the SPP has inspired one offender to pursue college credit by studying sustainability while incarcerated.

The Promised Land featuring Nalini Nadkarni: Click here to listen to the episode

SPP Co-Director Nalini Nadkarni escorts host Majora Carter from the treetops of the Olympic Rainforest canopy to the incarcerated men at Stafford Creek to lead them in a lively and insightful discussion of “what should happen next” for the SPP and sustainability in society.

Science Nation: Click here to watch and read

Science Nation explores how the SPP  and inmates at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Washington are helping themselves and nature to recover by working together to raise endangered prairie plants for restoration.

PBS News Hour, Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Click here to watch the PBS news hour segment (short version)

Click here to view the OPB Oregon Field Guide segment (long version)

Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Jule Gilfillan details how the SPP is helping the military and two Washington prisons to reduce waste and protect the environment by training offenders as conservation scientists; all while saving money and supporting biodiversity.

To donate to the Sustainable Prisons Project, CLICK HERE to visit the Evergreen Foundation’s website.

Cedar Creek’s Captive Crickets

By Graduate Research Associate Jill Cooper

This past spring, Cedar Creek Corrections Center and the Sustainable Prisons Project began experimenting with a new captive rearing project to raise crickets.  The goal of the project is to create a more sustainable, stable supply of food to meet the demand created by housing a growing population of endangered Oregon Spotted Frogs. Crickets are one of the largest expenses for the frog project. Cricket suppliers are located out of state.  Long-distance shipping complications can impact frog feeding schedules, and definitely increase the project’s carbon footprint. As a result of these issues, the offenders at CCCC decided they would try their hand at cricket husbandry and breeding.

Few organizations in Washington raise their own crickets. Most suppliers, including pet shops, purchase crickets from out of state breeders.  By locally-growing crickets for the Oregon Spotted Frog conservation project, SPP offenders and staff are taking another step toward creating a more sustainable, cost effective, and stable food supply.

Inmates and scientists are discovering best practices for rearing crickets.

The Project is also contributing to scientific knowledge, compiling best practices protocol for raising crickets in temperate climates through trial-and-error experimentation. While visiting with offenders to check on how things have progressed, SPP Research Associate Jill Cooper was impressed to see how much the offenders had learned through observation and experience, in such a short amount of time. One inmate explained to her how the current batch of “breeders” that were delivered to the prison, “aren’t really the age which the cricket farm said they are.”  He pointed to the “ovipositor” or egg-depositing tube noting that they were obviously under developed and not ready to lay eggs yet.  Crickets chirp to indicate when they are ready to breed.  The inmate is considering starting his own cricket farm when he is released to offer a more sustainable source of crickets to customers here in the northwest.

Training Officer Ron Gagliardo of Amphibian Ark recently made a visit to CCCC to advise inmates and staff on the cricket rearing operation.  Previously from the Atlanta area, Ron has extensive experience with frog and cricket rearing.  He was a tremendous resource.  The inmates were able to ask him many questions and his input will undoubtedly improve upon the initial success of the cricket operation.

There have been many bumps along the way, but things have been looking up for the cricket operation.  Offenders are able to raise crickets to help supplement the frog’s diet, and have learned much in the process. While the cricket project can not yet support all the food needs, we estimate that the current operation will eventually support at least half of the crickets needed to feed about 200 frogs.

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