by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager. Originally written for and published by SPP.
This blog is the second photo gallery from my visit to the Sustainable Practices Lab (SPL) at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla (see part one here).
Roy Townsend runs the wood shop, and when he describes his work he lights up like he’s singing. The shop fixes desks, chairs, and guitars. With donated/reclaimed wood, they also build beautiful chess boards, train sets, and other specialty pieces that become valuable auction items for non-profit fundraising.
Kieth Parkins is an exemplary spokesperson for the lab, and knows its programs inside-out. Robert Branscum, the corrections specialist who oversees the SPL, stayed with us throughout the tour, but Kieth served as the primary tour guide. Throughout the tour, I was struck by the inmate technicians’ investment in the programs, and their eloquence in presenting them.
We met Ray Williamson in the SPL’s sign shop, and he spoke passionately about his investment in peer-led programs. He said that when inmates run programs, they feel ownership, and that they listen to each other in a way they would never listen to staff. He expects to be in prison for life, and considers it his life work to help rehabilitate other inmates so that once they are released they never come back.
The sewing area is colorful and hopping with activity. They produce quilts, upholstery, and teddy bears for non-profit auctions. They see their teddy bears as their ambassadors.
Nearly all the materials for the sewing area are donated–the only costs are the sewing needles and the teddy bear eyes, shown here.
Here is another view of the SPL sewing area. Some favorite pieces are displayed on the wall.
Gus started the teddy bear program. He said to me, “Never in my life—and I’m 60 years old—never in my life wanted to get up and go to work until I got this job.”