Utah State and Salt Lake County

INSPIRE: Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni discusses the Nature Imagery program with officers the maximum security prison in Oregon; Dr. Nadkarni and others at the University of Utah helped start the program, and are studying its impacts on staff and inmates in the area. Photo by Benj Drummond.

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni discusses the Nature Imagery program with officers the maximum security prison in Oregon; Dr. Nadkarni and others at the University of Utah helped start the program, and are studying its impacts on staff and inmates in the area. Photo by Benj Drummond.

 

Programs in Utah were initiated by Nalini Nadkarni, one of the founders of the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP). When Dr. Nadkarni left The Evergreen State College in 2011, she worked with The Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME) to start Utah-based programs. INSPIRE seeks to build connections with science and the community as it brings science lectures, workshops, community-based conservation projects, and reductions in resource consumption to correctional facilities in Utah. The INSPIRE program provides multiple benefits for inmates, scientists, correctional facilities, and the community.

INSPIRE program staff work with the Utah Department of Corrections and the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. In March 2014, INSPIRE launched multiple programs at the Salt Lake County Jail, including a monthly science lecture series, a science class, and a conservation research project. In December 2014, INSPIRE launched a monthly science lecture series at the Draper Prison. Learn more at INSPIRE’s website: http://csme.utah.edu/inspire/

Funding for this program comes from the National Science Foundation (DEB-1141833 and DRL-1204448), private donations, and in-kind support from program partners.

Partners

INSPIRE partners with the Utah Department of Corrections and Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Additional INSPIRE collaborators include individuals from the University of Utah, Utah Education Policy Center, Utah Criminal Justice Center, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Utah State University. The INSPIRE program maintains strong ties with SPP-Washington, and the two states have collaborated to create the SPP Network.

Programs

INSPIRE’s lecture series and conservation programs are well documented on their website. A few additional highlights are given here.

Nature Imagery Project

LIST-OF-FILMS

This menu of nature imagery videos is available to incarcerated men before they enter the recreation room. The video selected will be projected on the wall of the room so that the viewer may gain some access to natural, therapeutic images . Photo by Benj Drummond.

 

INSPIRE partners with SPP-Oregon to create a “Blue Room” in the state’s maximum security prison. In this program, incarcerated men may choose to view nature imagery videos during their exercise time. Before they enter the Blue Room, they may choose to see and hear waterfalls, tropical rainforest canopies, or desert landscapes. Time magazine named the program as one if the best inventions of 2014.

Jail Horticulture Program

The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office hosts the Excellence in Gardening Program, nine classes presented by the Utah State University Extension horticulture faculty. In 2014, 40 inmates graduated from the demanding course, and 83 participated in the horticulture programs more broadly.

an inmate works in one of the gardens in the Jail Horticulture Program. Photo by Salt Lake County Jail Programs Division.

An inmate works in one of the gardens in the Jail Horticulture Program. Photo by Salt Lake County Jail Programs Division.

 

The program participates in community farmers’ markets, keeps bees, creates flower baskets for Mother’s Day, and much more. From the Jail Programs Division 2014 Annual Report:

In the spring of 2014, the Jail Horticulture Program began a partnership with the Salt Lake County Meals-Plus Program which delivers fresh produce to clients of the Meals on Wheels Program. It means a lot to our staff and the prisons participating in the Horticulture Program to be able to provide this valuable service to the community.

An officer shows his pride in the Jail Horticulture Program at Salt Lake County Jail. Photo by Salt Lake County Jail Programs Division.

An officer shows his pride in the Jail Horticulture Program at Salt Lake County Jail. Photo by Salt Lake County Jail Programs Division.

 

The program also supports and participates in the jail’s lecture series and conservation programs. In July, 2015, a Salt Lake County officer toured programs in SPP-Washington, and his observations will guide future program developments. For more information on Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office programs, see http://csme.utah.edu/inspire/salt-lake-county-jail/.