Green Jobs for Prisoners

The prison gardens in Washington state don't look like this, but working in a garden may help inmates find a green job once they're released. (Photo: Hamner_Fotos [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)

The days of prisoners making license plates and working in call centers may soon be over. Inmates at four prisons in Washington are joining the green jobs revolution and working in greenhouses, setting up recycling programs, and composting.

The website for the Washington Department of Corrections has a Sustainability link right on the homepage between ‘Offender Statistics’ and ‘Capital Punishment.’ It is an interesting place for such a link, but it shows the department’s commitment to the environment.

One of the department’s sustainability programs is a partnership with Evergreen State College. The pilot program features several activities including a moss-in-prison research project, a lecture series, an onsite greenhouse and garden, the use of worms for composting, recycling, beekeeping and water management.

Inmates at the prison not only benefit from the onsite sustainability projects but many gain the skills needed to obtain an environmentally friendly job upon leaving the prison system. One of the prisons in the pilot program is the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Wash.

“At Stafford Creek the goal is to reduce the amount of garbage the prison sends to landfills each year from 1200 tons down to just 200. But the Sustainable Prison Project also has a loftier and harder to measure goal: to prepare inmates for the green economy once they're released from prison.” Source: OPB News

In addition to the green jobs training that inmates can receive during their incarceration period, many may also be housed in a LEED certified building. The Washington Department of Corrections has 12 LEED certified buildings with more in the works.