The SPP Network began in Washington State. Earliest programs began in 2003 as low-stakes experiments. DOC tried out sustainable practices to save money. An Evergreen professor tried out science with incarcerated technicians. The results were surprisingly positive and productive, and more people joined the efforts. Scientists, sustainability experts, corrections staff, graduate students, and inmates worked together on inventive programs: they created composting facilities, scientific research projects, and ways to bring nature inside an otherwise stark and sterile environment.
A dozen years later, there are SPP programs in every Washington State prison, and in prisons and jails across the country. The SPP Network was established in 2012 as nine formal teams.
SPP is built on diverse partnerships. An array of partners co-exist in the state of Washington with varying goals, objectives, and organizational cultures, yet come together with limited funding to reach shared goals.
It is no coincidence that SPP experienced its greatest growth in the few years following a great disturbance. In October of 2010 Washington State DOC went through a massive budget cut which eliminated the SPP-WA contract. Within a few months, SPP had spent nearly all existing savings and was on the verge of collapse. And yet, from this messiness arose strengthened partnerships and renewed enthusiasms. SPP emerged resilient and has continued to grow and progress since.
SPP responds to disruption and challenges with adaptation and innovation.
As you think of joining the SPP Network and starting new programming in state prisons, county jails, or juvenile detention programs, we encourage you to find unlikely partners, build collaborations, and benefit from both the challenges and rewards of disturbance and diversity. Think about academics, scientists, community members, volunteers, state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses you can reach out to as you build your SPP team. You will be stronger because of them.
Diversity of Programs
Like our partnerships, our programs are highly diverse, each matching the particular needs and capabilities of its stakeholder (see our Essential Components). Generally, SPP’s efforts fall into four categories.
- Education and Training. Every SPP program should include education and training. Not only does education greatly improve an inmate’s likelihood of successful re-entry to the outside community, in-prison education creates a safer, more generative carceral culture.
- Sustainable Operations. Corrections facilities can be an ideal testing ground for sustainable practice: recycling, repurposing, composting, resource conservation, closed loop agri- and aquaculture. At the same time as saving tax payer dollars, inmates, and staff can engage in innovative projects which are valued by communities inside and outside the facility.
- Science and Conservation. Conservation organizations have found corrections staff and inmates to be capable and effective partners who can substantially increase their capacity for conservation and restoration. Research projects associated with conservation or sustainable operations provide advanced education and results valuable to the scientific community.
- Community Contributions. Many folks within corrections—inmates and staff—struggle to feel valued by society. SPP programs offer ways to redefine what correctional institutions can offer. By growing produce for the food bank, rearing endangered butterflies for release, refurbishing bicycles, training dogs, advancing environmental science, and rehabilitating folks who will return to the community, those inside have something to valuable to offer.
Many programs fit in one more than one category, and the best contain elements of them all.