I'm surprised that the Governor hasn't jumped on this...
LITTLEROCK, Wash. — Of all the things convicted murderer Robert Knowles has been called during his 13 years behind bars, recycler hasn't been one of them.
But there he was one morning, pitchfork in hand, composting food scraps from the main chow line and coffee grounds from prison headquarters — doing his part to "green" the prison.
"It's nice to be out in the elements," said Knowles, 42, stirring dark, rich compost that will amend the soil at the small farm where he and fellow inmates of the Cedar Creek Corrections Center grew 8,000 pounds of organic vegetables this year.
Inmates of the minimum-security facility, 25 miles from Olympia, the state capital, raise bees, grow organic tomatoes and lettuce, compost 100 percent of food waste and even recycle shoe scraps that are made into playground turf.
"It reduces cost, reduces our damaging impact on the environment, engages inmates as students," said Eldon Vail, secretary of the Washington Department of Corrections, which oversees 15 prisons and 18,000 offenders. "It's good security."
As around-the-clock operations, prisons are voracious resource hogs, and administrators are under increasing pressure to reduce waste and conserve energy and water.
In 2007, states spent more than $49 billion to feed, house, clothe, treat and supervise 2.3 million offenders, reports the Pew Center on the States.
To keep costs down, the Indiana Department of Corrections 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 $2,280 a year.
At Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, Calif., 6,200 solar panels send energy back to the grid, enough to power 4,100 homes a year.
At Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, Ore., inmates recycle scraps from old prison blues to make diaper bags for women's shelters and dog beds for animal shelters.
"We try to model pro-social behavior," said Vern Rowan, business manager for the Oregon Department of Corrections.
The Denver Post