Sustainable Prisons Project

Prisoners planting gardens, tending bees, learning about botanicals--this is not a common vision we have of men and women in prison.

The Sustainable Prisons Project is a partnership of the Washington State Department of Corrections and the Evergreen State College. Their mission is to bring science and nature into prisons. The Sustainable Prisons Project brings together prisoners, scientists, students, staff and community partners to help reduce the environmental, economic and human costs of prisons by inspiring and utilizing sustainable practices.

Within several correctional facilities throughout Washington state, inmates grow native plants intended for habitat restoration, work with frogs for water and insect control, work with rare butterflies, create recycling programs, and work with scientists on research programs.

Connecting prison with nature. 

Many of these prisoners have been incarcerated for over 10 years and have found great accomplishment in working with the Sustainable Prisons Project. It gives prisoners a sense of working to help save the earth, of contributing to society and of having a connection to the world outside of prison walls.

The Sustainable Prisons Project offers green-collar education and training for green oriented jobs. This includes vocational and trade-level work--green building, installation of solar panels, wind turbine construction, beekeepers, organic farmers and ecological research assistants. Inmates and staff learn through guest lectures and hands-on workshops. In addition, employment opportunities are discussed in the green job field after release.

Sustainable Operations consists of recycling, composting, water catchment basins, low flush toilets, energy conservation, tree planting and wild land firefighting. At the Stafford Creek Corrections Center, a program called Bicycles from Heaven helps refurbish bicycles for under privileged children.

The scientific and conservation section of the Sustainable Prisons Project work with scientists and inmates in scientific research. They encourage teamwork, mutual respect and a stewardship ethic among individuals who typically have little or no access to nature or opportunities in science and sustainability. At the same time, scientists enjoy a powerful opportunity to expand their work through the fresh perspectives and creative energy of the prison community. Included are the captive rearing of endangered frogs, captive breeding of endangered butterflies, prairie restoration and beekeeping.

There is a wealth of information about the Sustainable Prison Project here.