Multnomah County: The Sustainable Jail Project
Multnomah is the County surrounding Portland, Oregon. The Sheriff’s Office runs the Inverness Jail and Multnomah County Detention Center. Sustainability programs are concentrated at the jail, under the Sustainable Jail Project (SJP). Sheriff’s Office staff toured SPP-Washington programs several times in 2011 and 2012. They were quick to implement their own programs, and offer innovations to the model.
All inmates entering Inverness learn about the Sustainable Jail Project in a video introducing the facility and its programs.
They teach gardening with a class called Seed to Supper, created by the Oregon Food Bank and Oregon State University Extension Service. The five week class provides beginning gardeners with the skills they would need to grow a portion of their own food once released. The class is 5 weeks of hands-on work in the garden. Each student preps, sows, and tends their own garden bed. The jail donates produce from the class to community organizations, giving the students a chance to give back to organizations that have offered them support in the past. The garden areas for the program continue to grow in area.
Inverness Jail is developing a Job Lab that will provide a computer lab, high school completion certificates, and interview training. The Job Lab also will raise awareness about SJP programs, and their benefits to education and job-readiness.
In 2014, the City of Portland certified Inverness as a Gold facility using a similar process to U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification. For their introduction of inmate gardens and the Seed to Supper curriculum in 2013, they received the Multnomah County Sustainability Award for 2013.
The jail has audited resource use throughout the facility and made enormous improvements. They updated their laundry operations to recycle water through the system, saving water and heat energy. They capture 10,000 pounds of food waste each month for composting. SJP continues to seek out ways to cut costs, save resources, and educate inmates in sustainable practices.