Roots of Success (2012-2023)

Following SPP-Ohio’s success with Roots of Success, an environmental literacy curriculum, SPP-WA supported the program in Washington prisons from 2013-2023. Roots covers vital environmental topics and issues and challenges students to think critically in order to innovate community-based solutions. The program emphasizes job readiness and re-entry skills; Graduates are equipped for work in the green economy. In its ten years as part of SPP-WA, more than 1600 students graduated from the program.

Roots of Success graduates
Roots of Success graduates talk about their time as students in the program at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Roots was an ideal introduction to SPP’s other sustainable programs. For example, at Washington State Penitentiary, successful completion of the course became a prerequisite for men seeking employment in the facility’s pioneering Sustainable Practices Lab. The lab is also paired with the classroom work, and the students gain practical experience working in many sections of the lab until they graduate. They have the chance to extend theory to the practice of vermiculture, aquaponics, wood reclamation, and more. Additionally, Roots was offered in some Protective Custody Units for a limited time.

SPP-Ohio ties lessons from Roots classrooms to sustainable operations practices and other sustainability-focused programs in prison. “We were able to appreciate what [Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction] ODRC is doing because now we can show [the students] that the knowledge they have can be implemented,” explained Willie Lagway, Roots Master Instructor for ODRC.

Roots classes were taught by incarcerated individuals trained by Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes, Professor of Urban Studies & Planning at San Francisco State University, an internationally recognized expert on the green economy and green workforce training. She says the curriculum is different from most environmental classes; Rather than focusing only on environmental problems, it offers a problem-to-solution model.

“People have to leave our classes with hope, believing that there is something they can do… We want them to understand the problems, and be part of the innovative discussion about solutions.”

Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes

Once incarcerated instructors gained sufficient experience in the program, they became candidates for advanced training with Dr. Pinderhughes. SPP-Washington identified six incarcerated students who showed exceptional teaching and leadership skills and invested in the three-day training needed to certify them as Master Trainers; They went on to train and certify more Roots instructors statewide.

CRCC's most recent Roots graduates: Kuoy Chhong, Christopher Edwards, Edwin Edwards, Seth Fulmer, Richard Johnson, James Lees, Neil Mitchell, Andrew Quinn, Jayson Smith, Travis Turley, Kimothy Wynn, and Jeffery Willis. These inmates successfully completed the Roots of Success Environmental Literacy Curriculum where they learned about a variety of environmental issues and prepared for re-entry into the green economy. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett
A class of graduates from Coyote Ridge Corrections Center: Kuoy Chhong, Christopher Edwards, Edwin Edwards, Seth Fulmer, Richard Johnson, James Lees, Neil Mitchell, Andrew Quinn, Jayson Smith, Travis Turley, Kimothy Wynn, and Jeffery Willis. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.


Blog Posts on Roots of Success

Sticking with Success (2019)

First Graduates in 4 Years! (2019)

Welcoming New Roots of Success Instructors (2018)

Liaisons are our Roots for Success (2018)

Letter from one of the Roots Master Trainers (2017)

Roots of Success Gains Momentum at Airway Heights Corrections Center (2017)

Building the Pool of Environmental Instructors for the Women’s Prisons (2017)

A Master of Training (2016)

Reaching the Unreachable (2016)

Sustainability and Justice (2016)

Adding Salt to Popcorn: Gaining a taste for sustainability (2016)

Just Sustainability and Restorative Justice (2016)

Accountability: Brainstorming article (2016)

Roots of Success Graduation Speech – Larch Corrections Center (2016)

AHCC Roots of Success Graduation (2016)

WCCW Graduates first Roots class – photo gallery (2015)

Roots of Success Graduation Speech (2015)

Roots of Success Marathon Training, Part 1: Day Four (2015)

Roots of Success Marathon Training, Part 1: The first three days (2015)

Each One Teach One (2015)

CRCC Roots Course Leads to Inmate Interest in Sustainability (2014)

Inmates’ Zeal is the Key to Roots of Success in Ohio (2014)

Photo Gallery from Roots of Success Graduation at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (2014)

“Participating in the transformation of the world” : Roots of Success at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (2014)

Cedar Creek’s Roots of Success Graduation (2013)

 “Root View”: My Experience as a new Roots of Success Instructor (2013)

Roots of Success’ Successful Kickoff in Washington State (2013)