Sustainability In Prisons Project

Incarcerated individuals at Stafford Creek Corrections Center handling snakes during a lecture on reptiles.

Sustainability In Prisons Project

I began working with SPP through an internship referenced to me by my former photography instructor, Steve Davis. After three months spent visiting 10 of the 12 prisons in Washington State, my internship turned into employment. My work with SPP allows me to photograph environmental programs within Washington State prisons and grants me a rare opportunity to interact with and photograph incarcerated individuals and corrections staff, ultimately leading to a wide variety of subjects, settings, and moods.

"The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) is a partnership founded by The Evergreen State College and Washington State Department of Corrections [whose] mission is to bring science, environmental education, and nature into prisons. SPP conducts ecological research and conserves biodiversity by forging collaborations with scientists, inmates, prison staff, students, and community partners. Equally important, SPP helps reduce the environmental, economic, and human costs of prisons by inspiring and informing sustainable practices."


Garden fresh green beans, garlic, squash and radishes await transfer to the prison's kitchen. 

A bicycle repair technician at Washington State Penitentiary's Sustainable Practice Lab assembling a bike frame.

From the firewood program at Airway Heights Correction Center.

"On public lands such as parks and state forests, AHCC’s community crews remove trees which fell during storms, and cut trees which are crowding others or posing a hazard. Logs come back to the minimum security yard for splitting, stacking and curing. The prison partners with SNAP (Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners) to provide people of low income with no-cost firewood, to heat their homes." ¹


During the winter of 2015-16, the firewood program at Airway Heights Corrections Center donated more than 660 cords of wood to low-income residents of Spokane County.


A full wheelbarrow of produce harvested by incarcerated individuals. The produce goes directly to the prison's kitchen. 

"100,000 ft2 of gardens grew nearly 80,000 lbs of produce in 2015" ²


An incarcerated individual stops to pose for a picture while working in the vegetable garden.


A heavy blanket of smoke hanging over the thriving garden at Airway Heights Corrections Center. In August, 2016, the governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, issued a state of emergency for 20 counties in eastern Washington due to wildfires.


Students drawing butterflies from specimens and photos in a scientific illustration class.


"The illustration workshop was developed around the essential relationship between milkweed and Monarch butterflies and —most importantly—how creating artwork about this relationship can inspire understanding of core issues facing the imperiled Monarch butterfly and actions we can take to preserve and restore this species."


Coyote Ridge Corrections Center is located in a desert. "The stark central yard reflects the standard of using little-to-no water for irrigation."


Leo Fannin proudly shows off the cat he is rehabilitating in the Larch Cat Adoption Program which works with the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society and the Humane Society of Southwest WA.


Sadie Gilliom, a graduate research assistant, meets with the turtle technicians as part of the Western pond turtles care program in collaboration with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Oregon Zoo, and PAWS.


A houseplant in one of the living units at Larch Corrections Center which is the only Washington State prison with house plants in inmate rooms.


Cubias Armin expressing support for the dog program during an open discussion.

Derek Workman tends to a jade plant in the library office at Monroe Correctional Complex.

Derek Workman tends to a jade plant in the library office at Monroe Correctional Complex.


Kevin Morris, PhD, and research associate professor at University of Denver conducts research of how the dog program affected empathy in incarcerated individuals. 

Project Title: Measuring the psychosocial impacts of dog training programs that drive improved outcomes for prison inmates.Participation is entirely voluntary.


Juan Hernandez reaching for some Black Soldier Fly larvae for demonstration.

"Black Soldier Flies: Animal-based fats and oils cannot be fed directly to the Worm Farm worms, and the team sought a solution for handling meat and dairy waste. In August of 2015, MCC received approval and funding from the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) to conduct a six month trial with Black Soldier Flies (BSF). The pilot showed that BSF processing is an efficient and highly productive method for converting meat and dairy waste into a beneficial product. At the conclusion of the six month trial, from more than 3 lbs/foot3/day of food waste, MCC had a sustained harvest of 80 ounces of larvae/day. We donate excess larvae to nearby zoos as high-quality animal feed. Building on this success, MCC is expanding the BSF operation."


Nick Hacheney (left) is the lead worm farmer at MCC, discussing methodology and results with University of Denver research associate professor, Kevin Morris.