Coffee Creek Women’s Correctional Center in Wilsonville, Oregon is one of 15 prisons located throughout the state of Oregon. For the population of nearly 1700 inside its walls, who spend years, often decades of their lives in incarceration, it can be difficult to find ways of revitalizing daily life. For this reason, many have joined a range of sustainability initiatives available in the Oregon Department of Corrections since October 2013. These include beekeeping, butterfly rehabilitation, sustainability in gardening classes, greenhouse management classes, seeds of supper certification, TerraCycle upcycling brigades, recycling programs, canine companions for independence programs, and Roots of Success.

Roots of Success is an integral part of environmental programming in the lives of those incarcerated in Oregon, and the partnership we have created with staff and women at Coffee Creek has provided new life and hope to those we work with. So far, we have trained and certified 400 instructors between all facilities to teach the Roots of Success course to their peers, who in turn have taught hundreds more women about environmental issues and prepared them for green jobs both inside and outside prison.

Over the years, Coffee Creek has increased its environmental and sustainability efforts, like raising and releasing endangered butterflies into the wild, and the staff and women working in the program rely on Roots of Success to prepare students to do this work. Many of the women are excited by the opportunity to learn the job readiness skills Roots of Success provides, including writing strong resumes and cover letters for employers, and preparing for job interviews. Kathleen Fitts, Green Team Coordinator, emphasized that “many students have never had this type of in-depth attention and instruction on how to successfully enter the workforce, and gaining these job readiness skills is impactful for their feelings of confidence when they are released. Many of the students are really passionate about the entrepreneurship module, as well as content like solar energy.”

Over 150 women at Coffee Creek have graduated from Roots of Success. Those women who are able to return home to their communities before they finish the course still receive certificates for the modules they completed, an important feature of Roots of Success. We are so happy to be able to continue offering Roots of Success at Coffee Creek, to prepare incarcerated women for green jobs in their communities and improve their chances of success outside prison.