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Oregon Sustainable Prisons Project Launched

New project connects Oregon prison inmates with conservation and sustainability activities

Oregon Sustainable Prisons Project Launched

Inmates at the Oregon Correctional Institution planting seeds of the threatened Kincaid’s lupine

Life behind bars isolates people from the natural world and from service to their community. IAE is partnering with other organizations to bring connection to the natural world and service projects to Oregon’s prison population.  Starting with the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, we’re working with prison staff and inmates to grow endangered plants for use in conservation projects outside the prison walls. 

Inmates are currently growing Kincaid’s lupine (Lupinus oreganus), the threatened host plant for an endangered butterfly, Fender’s blue.  One impediment to increasing the number and size of lupine populations in the wild is availability of plant materials.  Seeding Kincaid’s lupine has been shown to work well as a means of establishing new plants in prairie habitats.  Previous efforts to produce seed in cultivation have proved successful, but additional production of seeds is needed to yield sufficient quantities to support restoration needs in the Willamette Valley.  These inmates are growing the lupines and planting them in beds for seed production.

Seed increase at this facility will augment other production efforts we already have under way with support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Involving inmates in nurturing these plants in their greenhouses can have a therapeutic value during their period of incarceration.  By working with this group of people, we want to plant the seeds of plants and the seeds of healing.

Oregon State Correctional Institution is a medium security prison with a functioning greenhouse and a team of inmates who are supported by prison staff and volunteer master gardeners from the local area.  The inmates already produce tens of thousands of pounds of food annually for consumption by the prison population and donation to local food banks.  IAE is teaming with another nonprofit,, to bring science activities and conservation projects to the prison population, in addition to food production.  We hope to emulate a similar project to our north, the Washington Sustainable Prisons Project, which is a partnership between The Evergreen State College in Olympia and the Washington Department of Corrections that emphasizes science and conservation. 

We’re also working with the Oregon Youth Authority and Multnomah Education Service District to provide environmental education lessons to youths age 12-24.  Currently this effort joins with the Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility in Albany, Oregon.  We’re using IAE’s new native plant curriculum, From Salmonberry to Sagebrush, to provide lessons.  This youth facility for girls and young women also has a greenhouse that is now growing native plants for conservation.

“I find the students a real joy to work with – enthusiastic, engaged in ecology, and excited to work in their greenhouse,“ says Stacy Moore of IAE’s Ecological Education Program.

This project is just getting going and needs your support.  We have received generous donations from the Native Plant Society of Oregon Cheahmill and Portland Chapters for soil and pots.  Please consider a donation to help us keep the Oregon Sustainable Prisons project going!


The mission of the Institute for Applied Ecology is to conserve native ecosystems through restoration, research and education.

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