Greensleeves Gets Inmates Working on River Restoration

By Paige Browning

Volunteers planted 1,000 trees along streams on Saturday for Reforest Spokane day, put on by the Lands Council. The planting went smoothly because of prep work done by jail inmates. It's a new collaboration between the environmental group and the county jail.
On a warm October day, Amanda Parrish with The Lands Council looks out over a bushy riparian area just south of Spokane - California Creek.
Parrish: “So we’ve got an offender work crew out here from Geiger Correctional facility, eight guys that are doing the prep work for us.”
Parrish says the Lands Council plants trees and maintains sites throughout the Spokane watershed, normally relying on staff and volunteer work.
Parrish: “And in the past 5 years our restoration programs have grown exponentially but our staff has not. And so we have 10-15 sites where we’re actively doing restoration throughout the Spokane region, but only seven of us on staff.”

So they created a program called Greensleeves, funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund. A Geiger work crews joins Lands Council staff to do restoration. Today, they’re digging holes at California Creek so volunteers can plop the trees in. Parrish says it gives the Lands Council a reliable crew to do the hard jobs, and she says the work is actually more thorough than if done by volunteers. But the benefits go both ways, according to Corrections Officer Charles Valente.
Valente: “For some of ‘em, there’s a real push to be normal, to act normal, to do normal things. And to maybe give a little something back, so that’s kind of what we’ve got going on here.”
Valente says there aren’t many perks for the inmates to do a labor intensive work crew like this, except maybe a bologna sandwich. But he thinks it gets them thinking about making progress in life.
Valente: “If we plant a seed here, it goes back with their family. If they have that pride of performance that they can take back to their kids, and they can say ‘hey you see that park, I was out here, yeah I did something wrong but all those trees down there, that’s us, I did that’. And there’s a little bit of pride for that, and that’s a lot of the push for what they’re doing.”

Parrish says they’re planning even more collaboration because of the success of Greensleeves. This fall the Lands Council and Geiger are creating a native plant nursery at the corrections center.

Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio
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