Convicted murderer Robert Knowles stands in the morning sunlight, composting food scraps from the chow hall and coffee grounds from the prison Headquarters.
“It’s nice to be out in the elements,” he says, as he stirs the dark, rich compost that will assist the soil at a small farm where he and other inmates of the Cedar Creek Corrections Center work.[social_buttons]
Inmates of the facility, 25 miles from the Washington State Capital, raise bees, grow organic tomatoes and lettuce, and compost 100 percent of food waste.
Eldon Vail, secretary of the Washington Department of Corrections says “It reduces cost, reduces our damaging impact on the environment and engages inmates as students.
“In 2007, states spent more than $49 billion to feed, house, clothe, treat and supervise 2.3 million offenders, the Pew Center on the States reports.
Cedar Creek isn’t the only prison to go green either. The Indiana Department of Corrections has installed water boilers that run on waste wood chips and built a wind turbine at one prison that generates about 10 kilowatts an hour and saves over $2,000.00 a year.
In addition, Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, California has 6,200 solar panels and actually sends energy back to the grid, enough to power over 4,000 homes a year, while Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution inmates recycle scraps from old prison uniforms to make diaper bags for women’s shelter.
Other than helping the planet, does this Eco-Carceration have any societical benefits for the inmates? Nalini Nadkarni – an environmental studies professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, notes anecdotal evidence that it’s working.
“They are stimulating their minds and having conversations with each other that are different than “How much more time do we have left?” he said.