Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 60.68
Liaison Scott Morgan
Submission Date July 25, 2011
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.0

Evergreen State College, The
IN-1: Innovation 1

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Kelli Bush
Sustainable Prisons Project Manager
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A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome :

The Sustainable Prisons Project is a partnership of The Evergreen State College and the Washington State Department of Corrections. Its mission is to bring science into prisons by helping scientists conduct ecological research and conserve biodiversity through projects with offenders, college students, and community partners. Equally important, it reduces the environmental, economic and human costs of prisons by training offenders and correctional staff in sustainable practices, such as recycling, organic gardening, and composting. The vision of the Sustainable Prisons Project is to raise awareness for the scientific enterprise, save tax dollars and natural resources, and help offenders rebuild their lives through education and direct links to nature.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) is responsible for more than 16,000 inmates in15 prisons in Washington – a commitment that draws heavily from the state’s natural resources. In 2002, DOC responded to our Governor’s directive to enhance the sustainability of its prisons. Concurrently, Evergreen began pilot activities at a minimum security prison to link scientists and conservation specialists with incarcerated men. These efforts led to the establishment of the Sustainable Prisons Project (SPP) in July 2008. We now focus on prisons at Cedar Creek, Mission Creek Correction Center for Women, Stafford Creek, and the Washington Corrections Center for Women. These facilities represent a broad spectrum of population size, gender, security level, and infrastructure, which maximizes the extensibility of this project to other locations.

The Sustainable Prisons Project encourages everyone, including incarcerated men and women, to become stewards of the planet. Toward that end, its activities focus on three areas:

Green-Collar Training and Education: Through lectures and workshops with topics ranging from ecology and farming to business entrepreneurship and green energy prospects, SPP inspires and trains inmates and correctional staff in sustainable practices. By providing students with the opportunity for direct involvement in a wide variety of project tasks, independent learning contracts, and project internships, SPP strives to create an excellent learning opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students. On any given day students may be analyzing data in the lab, contacting a prospective lecturer, or teaching inmate about the role of rare native plants in the prairie ecosystem. SPP also enrolls inmates in one-on-one learning contracts with Evergreen State College faculty to help them earn college credit while incarcerated.

Sustainable Operations: SPP helps correctional staff develop cost-effective, environmentally sound practices for operating prisons and engage offenders with direct responsibility for these activities where security is in place. Activities include recycling, composting, organic gardening, and bee-keeping. These programs are designed to improve prison sustainability and connect participants to the larger world of science and conservation.

Scientific Research and Conservation: With guidance from collaborating scientists, we carry out ecological research and conservation projects involving inmates, college graduate and undergraduate students, and community partners. One project involves inmates rearing the endangered Oregon Spotted Frog from egg to adult, which we then release into protected wetlands. Another project involves inmates propagating approximately 200,000 native prairie plants in greenhouses within prison walls; these plants are planted out in relict prairies to enhance habitat for prairie dependent species, such as rare butterflies. In another prison, men build nest boxes to provide habitat for threatened bird species.

The Sustainable Prisons Project was developed by faculty member Nalini Nadkarni and is currently co-directed by The Evergreen State College faculty member Carri LeRoy and managed day-to-day by full-time Program Manager Kelli Bush. The program is currently funded by a combination of DOC, Evergreen State College, and non-profit foundation grants, as well as private donations from community individuals and groups.

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
The website URL where information about the innovation is available :
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