The Green Corrections Challenge-National Institute of Corrections

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/04/green-corrections-challenge-national-institute-corrections/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. The program today is Green Corrections produced by the National Institute of Corrections. We have two guests by our microphones. From Oklahoma via Skype, Mike Connelly. He is an instructor at the University of Oklahoma. And by our microphone we have Stephanie Davison; she is a Program Manager for FHI 360. The program, again, is Greening of Corrections. And we have an exciting announcement, ladies and gentlemen. We have a Green Corrections Challenge today. And I want to give out a couple websites, NICIC, National Institute of Corrections, nicic.gov/greencorrections and nicic.gov/greencorrectionschallenge. To Mike and Stephanie welcome to DC Public Safety.

Stephanie Davison:  Thanks for having us.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Mike Connelly:  Yeah. Thank you.

Len Sipes:  All right, now, Stephanie, I’m going to start off with you. What is Green Corrections?

Stephanie Davison:  Green Corrections are the multiple ways that the corrections community can be engaged in sustainable and cost saving activities.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Stephanie Davison:  It ranges from greening facilities to reentry programs and everything in between.

Len Sipes:  What we’re trying to do is to be environmentally friendly within the correctional system. And that is the last conversation we had. That creates jobs, does it not, within the correctional institutions?

Stephanie Davison:  Both in the correctional institutions and outside, as offenders are exiting, it can.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So this is a win-win situation for everybody and it does save money for institutions, ordinarily gobs of money, correct?

Stephanie Davison:  Yes. States can save millions of dollars a year if they plan their programs well.

Len Sipes:  And last time that we did this program we had guests on who did talk about immense savings within their own states, right?

Stephanie Davison:  Yes. For example, Washington State, a composting program at one facility can save $30,000 a year.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So we’re just not talking about 30,000, the different states that we were talking about, millions of dollars of savings. And state correctional agencies are constantly looking for ways to save money. So this is a way of saving money, a way of being environmentally participatory, as well as providing jobs for inmates within the correctional institution. So this is a win-win-win for everybody.

Stephanie Davison:  I would add one more piece to it.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, please.

Stephanie Davison:  As offenders become more engaged in their environment and their community there can be a rehabilitation aspect to it.

Len Sipes:  Oh, that’s right. I mean we’re talking about a reentry component to this –

Stephanie Davison:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Because they can take, these are transferable skills that they can take out into the community.

Stephanie Davison:  Yes, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Okay. And one of those transferable skills being, we were talking about mulching a little while ago, was going into the landscaping business on the outside. I mean this could be a real bridge for a lot folks leaving the prison system, going out and finding jobs, correct?

Stephanie Davison:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Stephanie Davison:  Building competencies and skills through those programs.

Len Sipes:  Mike Connelly, you’re, again, an instructor at the University of Oklahoma and you have quite a correctional background we were talking about before hitting the start button. Can you tell me and tell the audience a little bit about your background?

Mike Connelly:  Well, my position before I went to University of Oklahoma was basically handle the research office for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Before that I was the Executive Director of Sentencing Commissions in Wisconsin and Maryland and I also have done work with the Justice Research and Statistics Association working with the Bureau of Justice Assistance on technical assistance to state and local community criminal justice agencies evaluation projects.

Len Sipes:  So the bottom line is that you’ve got a heck of a corrections background.

Mike Connelly:  Or I just can’t keep a job, one or the other.

Len Sipes:  No. I think it’s a heck of a corrections background. All right, before we get into Green Corrections, because I do want to have an exploration of what is Green Corrections, where is it going, what’s happening with that, we have a Green Corrections Challenge. In fact, we’re announcing it on this program. I’m very proud that the National Institute of Corrections has chosen this program to announce the Green Corrections Challenge. What is the Green Corrections Challenge, Stephanie?

Stephanie Davison:  The challenge is a video contest that engages states, students in criminal justice programs, basically anybody interested in corrections, into entering a video about their green innovation. We figure people on the ground know what’s best and we should be learning from each other.

Len Sipes:  All right, so the whole idea is for them to submit video pieces, and that could be through their cell phones, that could be through their Smartphones, it could be through their video cameras. It doesn’t have to be, I would imagine, a professional piece. Anything that documents what is happening in correctional facilities regarding Green Corrections, right?

Stephanie Davison:  Yes. They should visit nicic.gov/greencorrectionschallenge –

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Stephanie Davison:  For the rules.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Stephanie Davison:  But they can make a video up to seven minutes –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Stephanie Davison:  It could be 30 seconds if it really captures it –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Stephanie Davison:  Telling the story of what their innovation is and the impact it’s had.

Len Sipes:  I want to see these. I want to see these, because when you say Green Corrections, and then Donna Ledbetter from the National Institute of Corrections first proposed a Green Corrections program, the first time we did this I’m saying to myself, “Wait a minute. This doesn’t all that interesting.” When you get into it’s very interesting, because it hits every facet of correctional life. So the videos could be what? Give me some ideas as to what these videos could be.

Stephanie Davison:  So they could range, they could be something like an energy performance contract and how an energy system is retrofitted. Or it could be a gardening program. It could be a reentry program where people are reentering into society, learning a skill in a green field. It might be something completely that we haven’t thought of, maybe related to correctional industries, a new way of manufacturing –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Stephanie Davison:  Within a facility.

Len Sipes:  Anything that saves money while being environmentally friendly, that’s what you’re looking for.

Stephanie Davison:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Now that could be anything.

Stephanie Davison:  It could be anything. We would like people to focus on activities that could be replicated.

Len Sipes:  Right. But I mean that could be a different fuel within –

Stephanie Davison:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  The vehicles that correctional personnel use. So that could be a different kind of lighting as long as it doesn’t affect security. That could be beautifying the grounds of correctional facilities. One of the things when I spent my 14 years in the state of Maryland and went into every correctional facility multiple times was how beautiful, this is going to be a contradiction, how beautiful some of these correctional facilities were because they were maintained by inmates who took great pride in terms of how the grounds inside the wire, and outside the wire, if they were on minimum security, looked. I remember bringing visitors and media into some of our correctional facilities and they were astounded as to how nice they looked. So that’s Green Corrections as well. So this has an effect on morale of the correctional staff, this has effect on the morale of the inmates who are in these facilities. It can go on and on and on in terms of what Green Corrections is.

Stephanie Davison:  Absolutely. I love going and hearing stories from Washington State where they say when you’re in the yard it’s so much more calm, because offenders are actively participating in green practices such as gardening and landscaping. Now, Mike Connelly, now as an instructor at the University of Oklahoma are you teaching this, are you a proponent of this. I’m quite sure you were, because you’re on the radio program today. Where do you see the role of Green Corrections going?

Len Sipes:  Well, from the standpoint of state budgets, for example, I think Stephanie’s point early on about the cost savings that are generated from a Green Corrections approach is going to become even more important to facilities on state and local levels for the coming years. We’re looking at a situation where our fastest inmate groups, the aging population of inmates, those that are 50 years of age and older, those with mental health issues, which is not always the same group, physical health problems requiring medical treatment, those groups they add cost to the correctional budgets far beyond what we would call I guess the average costs of an offender would be, and those are groups that are growing the fastest. And so one of the problems that we face is not just that the prison populations are growing, but even the cost of many of those offenders grow at the same time, that we’re trying to divert a lot of offenders from prison. But if you look at a lot of the efforts to divert offenders, the offenders who would be diverted by most of the reform proposals out there are not the ones who are adding to the cost. The average, the rule of thumb for an aging offender, for example, as a cost to the correctional system is like three times the cost of the average offender.

And so and that’s going to vary obviously from the 50 to 60-year-olds as a rule won’t cost as much as the 60 to 70-year-olds and so on. But what that means is that even if we divert people, we’re successful in reducing our prison populations, even if we divert people, if they’re the ones who are the average cost offenders, and we’re increasing our aging or mental health need offenders. At the same time, for example, we would have to divert 300 offenders, the average cost for every 100 of the people who age in, at that 3 to 1 ratio. And that really doesn’t get talked about probably as much as it should. And so we’re looking at that just on top of the normal types of pressures or triggers for correctional population growth in terms of the general population growing and incarceration rates staying the same and also just the problems of state and local governments being able to keep up with the costs that are associated with it right now. It’s a rare state that is in good shape in their correctional budgets. And so one of the things Green Corrections does, as Stephanie said, is to force concentration on how do you best manage your resources and I think that will become more important as the resources don’t keep up any better than they already have been doing at the state and local levels.

Len Sipes:  Either one of you. Mandates and regulations oftentimes serve as a catalyst to implement Green Corrections. I would imagine there are EPA requirements; I would imagine there are state requirements. Stephanie, do you want to take a shot at that?

Stephanie Davison:  Yeah, absolutely. So what I find in most states is the biggest trigger for a state correctional agency to implement energy savings are a governor’s requirement –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Stephanie Davison:  To lower those energy usages.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Stephanie Davison:  And it’s very difficult within the correctional environment because you have people living there 24/7.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Stephanie Davison:  It’s easier for other agencies that are doing it to office space.

Len Sipes:  I would imagine in terms of having experience and in terms of building prisons, I don’t remember the term Green Corrections coming up. I would assume that in terms of constructing correctional facilities Green Corrections is now an integral component of that construction process.

Stephanie Davison:  Absolutely. The American Institute of Architects has a special Green Corrections subgroup that leads it. Actually the leader of that group helped facilitate the writing of the Greening of Corrections Guidebook, as well as LEED, which is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design by the US Green Building Council, has components that can be applied to Green Corrections.

Len Sipes:  So there are mandates I would imagine governors throughout the country, throughout the territories are saying to their correctional administrators, “Hey, this is something you need to do.”

Stephanie Davison:  Yes. Both reduce energy and sometimes have a LEED certified building.

Len Sipes:  Okay. And that’s why they end up with the National Institute of Corrections and that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this program today, to assist people in terms of ideas, and also, again, at nicic.gov/greencorrections, and to invite ideas from the community in terms of nicic.gov/greencorrectionschallenge, right?

Stephanie Davison:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  All right, so partners can play an important role in the development of Green Corrections. Who wants to take that?

Stephanie Davison:  I can address that.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Stephanie Davison:  So partnership happens at various levels. We’re thinking about it through the challenge of how states can look at other effective practices. States can also do exchange programs. I often find when one correctional officer visits a facility in another state they come back with ten new ideas –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Stephanie Davison:  That they can implement. That healthy challenge and also learning from each other is critical.

Len Sipes:  And that’s one of the reasons that the National Institute of Corrections exists at all is to exchange information with hundreds of people throughout the United States and the territories so they can figure out the best way of doing things. I mean that’s the hallmark of the National Institute of Corrections and that’s one of the reasons why the National Institute of Corrections is picking up on Green Corrections.

Stephanie Davison:  Absolutely.

Mike Connelly:  You know –

Len Sipes:  Go ahead, Mike.

Mike Connelly:  One of the areas that we need to focus on too I think are the community partnerships with churches, for example. A lot of the offenders, [INDISCERNIBLE 00:13:56] offenders, are going back to communities that will be heavily hit in the future, are being heavily hit, a number of them are what we call food deserts. And as a result, working with the churches, working with the nonprofit agencies in those types of communities to do the sort of thing that Stephanie was talking about, about working offenders into, working their skills that they’ve learned in Green Corrections back into those communities when they come back will be important.

And we actually investigated briefly, it didn’t happen, but we investigated briefly working with one of the large hospital centers in Oklahoma City at one point because they have wellness programs both for their employees and for employee families and they’re interested obviously in the health and medical care of the general community. And we explored for a while working with them to develop a kind of community garden setting in one of their properties. They weren’t able to; there was a water issue that kept us from doing that. But we were really surprised about how – we had never really thought hospitals as being a potential partner for this sort of thing, but until we got to the point where – you do tend to need water for gardens – but till we got to that point it looked like we might be able to really afford a good partnership with someone that we had never really thought of at all.

Len Sipes:  Well, the bottom is that who’s not your partner when it comes to Green Corrections because it applies to so many people in so many ways.

Mike Connelly:  Right.

Len Sipes:  But we’re more than halfway through the program. I do want to introduce, reintroduce the topic. It’s Green Corrections. The program is produced by the National Institute of Corrections. Mike Connelly is an instructor at the University of Oklahoma. Stephanie Davison – Davison –?

Stephanie Davison:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  Is a Program Manager for FHI 360. What is FHI 360, Stephanie?

Stephanie Davison:  FHI 360 is a human development organization dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Stephanie Davison:  We take locally driven solutions and work in all 50 states.

Len Sipes:  All right, the program is really, I think, exciting in terms of the fact that we are saving state and federal correctional agencies literally millions of dollars through this use of Green Corrections, and if you’re interested in information on Green Corrections, nicic.gov/greencorrections. If you’re interested in the challenge, which is submitting a video up to seven minutes, and, again, it doesn’t have to be a professionally done video, it could be any video of what’s happening in terms of Green Corrections, in terms of any correctional facility, it could be mainline corrections, it could be community corrections, it could be offender reentry, nicic.gov/greencorrectionschallenge, greencorrectionschallenge.

All right, now in terms of measuring the success of this program, you talk about understanding the consumption of waste, water and energy use is critical to measuring reduction in use, which could be difficult in older facilities. Many states have data tracking systems for energy where they can compare information from utility bills. For waste and water consumption other measures may be necessary, a new recycling program, for example, may measure waste and recycling on a weekly basis, and also monetizing savings. So there’s a variety of ways that different correctional facilities, Stephanie, can take a look at this and measure their results.

Stephanie Davison:  Yeah. So I’d say most states go through four steps. They set a baseline and analyze current use. They implement a program. They measure use. And then they tweak it. So in the state of Maryland they’re looking at energy systems based on utility bills and tracking from there. The state of Alabama just signed a contract with Johnson Controls to look at how much they’re going to be saving in one particular facility based on certain activities that will be implemented.

Len Sipes:  Okay, all right. And this is important in terms of the buy-in of the correctional personnel at that facility. Now, look, I’ve been around corrections for a quarter of a century. It’s a tough job. Any correctional facility is just a really tough place to be. We have some people in there who are not the easiest to manage. Correctional officers are under an enormous amount of stress and strain. So we’ve got to get buy-in from correctional staff if Green Corrections is going to successful, correct?

Stephanie Davison:  Yes. That’s true.

Len Sipes:  All right, Michael, the question goes to you. So if we have the – we have to have buy-in by correctional staff, by the administration, by the average correctional officers. How difficult is that when you mention the words Green Corrections to them?

Mike Connelly:  Well, I think, well, it’s very difficult, obviously. But I think there are things that you can do to facilitate all that, one of them is exactly what Stephanie’s proposing with these videos and the dissemination of them. I think one of the most successful ways of dealing with this is just to take advantage of the interest of staff and the managers in the facilities in doing better with their resources as they’re having to triage and cut back and demonstrate to them that’s it’s not something that’s just out there, where you’re talking about tree huggers and all that sort of thing, but it’s something that actually has an impact and gets around whatever predispositions that they bring to it.

You’re talking about something that in the long run, actually as Stephanie alluded to, is going to make the facility in most cases a safer place to be and a more efficient place to be and just a more congenial place to be. And there are enough places out there that have experience with this that if they’re promoted and the people who have led to the point where they are, such as the Sustainability in Prisons Program that you see in Washington and now extending to Oregon and so on, have the spokespeople for those programs be available to kind of lead the way. You find your successes, you promote them, you send their leaders around, and you answer questions from these folks when you present to them. And then within the facility or within your system, as some move forward and others don’t, you make special effort to recognize and reward and award the people who are actually making the effort and over time that should have a payoff as well. Don’t you think that’s true, Stephanie, I mean?

Stephanie Davison:  Absolutely. I see promoting leadership of the people on the ground who are going to be making the changes over time will have the biggest success. When you look at Washington State, as you mentioned, Dan, who’s the leader of the Sustainable Prisons Project, started out as an officer and has moved up to the second ranking position within the state in the field of corrections.

Len Sipes:  Well, I want to you a story from a prison Maryland’s lower eastern shore where they went through a lot to maintain the yard and beautify the yard basically using recyclable materials. And the place looked nice, it really did. And anytime you walked inside of that prison you were sort of surprised by how nice the grounds looked. There was a disturbance at that correctional facility and the inmates involved in the disturbance went to great length not to bother the plants and everything else, the shrubbery and the plants that they erected. So it seems to me that they even during tough times took pride in what they had and that had to, it shows that that this is something that was important to them, which creates safer institutions. I think, Michael, I think you’re right. I think Green Corrections creates safer saner correctional institution and makes it a nicer place for correctional staff and inmates. And I think that that’s maybe not an issue that’s brought up enough.

Mike Connelly:  Oh, I agree. I think that’s how it has to be promoted. I think just everybody hears that you need to change your light bulbs and you need to get a more fuel efficient car and all that and I think you become kind of immune to those types of admonitions. But it’s when you’re able to relate it to their day to day work activity, they’re able to see the progress like you’re describing right there, and they’re able to take ownership of it both as offenders and as staff, that you’re going to end up seeing that long-term institutionalization and that commitment to it by staff. And when the people come in, when you have turnover, they’ll get oriented to it in the same way.

Len Sipes:  Are we retrofitting prisons and correctional facilities to make them more energy efficient, is that possible? A lot of the prisons that I experienced in Maryland were just old facilities and they had to be terribly inefficient from an energy saving’s point of view.

Stephanie Davison:  Yes. Older facilities that can be retrofitted are usually the places where you have the easiest gains; they’re sort of the low hanging fruit for energy savings.

Len Sipes:  But it’s not like any other building, it’s not like an apartment building, it’s a high-security facility. So retrofitting can be really difficult within the correctional setting.

Stephanie Davison:  Right. Which is why partnership really comes in.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Stephanie Davison:  Relying on your state Department of Energy, relying on utility companies that have expertise can really be helpful. And then you can have energy performance contracts. So if the state enters into that and they don’t save $400,000 a year, that company has to give them that money. It’s guaranteed savings.

Len Sipes:  Mike, and then we’re talking about correctional industries. Correctional industries, most people may not know this; it is the job creation part, the job training part within correctional facilities throughout the country, correctional industries. I mean in Maryland, my heavens, it was meat processing, it was [PH 00:24:34] sewing, it was manufacturing. I mean everybody understands that the prisons make license plates. That’s part of correctional industries. But it goes so much more. I mean I even had inmates doing my reading articles from newspapers throughout the state and doing a daily analysis for me. So correctional industries can be an important part of this, right?

Mike Connelly:  Yeah, definitely. It can. I mean one of the concerns that you usually run across with correctional industries is that they’re going to be competing in some way with private industries and you get people complaining about that. But one of the things about there is such a need for both skill levels in the parts of the offenders but also for the materials, that if there were states to start or continue along lines developing their correctional industries to supply those needs to the businesses that are forming around Green Corrections, and green economy is one of the growing areas of our economy, the correctional industries had to play a much, much bigger role both in preparation of the offenders and in doing the supplying of more than – we would buy our desks and chairs and things like that at DOC in Oklahoma, but there’s no reason in the world why the materials that you’re talking about, the retrofitting for – if you’re talking about some of the water harvesting and conservation sorts of things that could be going on, that could be done in ways that would actually probably be beneficial to the businesses that are out there and not necessarily get in the way or cause any kind of political problems with the usual constituencies.

Len Sipes:  Which gets us right back to job creating. We only have a couple minutes left. One of the things that I did want to point out, that there’s a document called the Greening of Corrections:  Creating a Sustainable System. And that can be accessed through the National Institute of Corrections library. And, again, the website for Green Corrections is nicic.gov/greencorrections. Stephanie, if somebody orders the book, what will they see when they order this manual from the National Institute of Corrections?

Stephanie Davison:  So within the guidebook it highlights four areas of corrections that you might want to quote, unquote “green”. One being the facility itself, one being your education and training program, next is reentry, and then also correctional industries, finally, there also sort of a checklist and how-to for how you would implement within your own state or locality.

Len Sipes:  Well, before we end the program I do want to get back to Green Correction Challenge nicic.gov/greencorrectionschallenge. I mean in essence the National Institute of Corrections is crowd sourcing ideas and asking the larger community to submit those videos. Again, it’s up to how many minutes, seven minutes?

Stephanie Davison:  Up to seven minutes.

Len Sipes:  But it could be a 30 second buy-in video.

Stephanie Davison:  Absolutely. Anything that gives us a picture of what you’re doing and how someone else could replicate it.

Len Sipes:  And, again, it could be shot on your cell phone, your tablet, it doesn’t have to be a big fancy production, you’re just talking about a bit of documentation in terms of what’s happening.

Stephanie Davison:  Yeah. Tell us your story, formally or informally.

Len Sipes:  Tell us you story. And you’re going to be taking all of these videos and doing what with them, advertising [OVERLAY] –?

Stephanie Davison:  That’s great. In October we will be holding a symposium in which challenge winners will be announced, we’ll also be hosting these online, and then doing a series of webinars featuring the best practices that we’ve seen in the videos.

Len Sipes:  Wouldn’t it be nice, instead of the public’s perception of correctional facilities as dark and dank places, where they see all of the shrubbery and the flowers and the beautification projects going on, wouldn’t that be a nicer image of what corrections is and how people can relate to the fact that the greenery and the recycling has or could have a positive effect on the lives of the people who’ve got to go into that institution every day?

Stephanie Davison:  Absolutely. If people could really see how Green Corrections can help an offender reintegrate into their community and be a benefit to that community, that would be a best case scenario.

Len Sipes:  Because, Michael, we have 30 seconds. The bottom line in all of this is that, again, as you said, this creates jobs. I mean it’s one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy is not Green Corrections, but environmentally friendly practices. So the person comes out of the prison system, he’s qualified for a variety of jobs in that green community.

Mike Connelly:  Yeah. And that’s something that is going to require our correctional leadership to reorient themselves to really thinking along those lines and making sure that they’re receptive and they’re making sure that everyone below them down the organization understands this is a priority [OVERLAY].

Len Sipes:  All right, Mike, you’ve got the final word with that, because we do have to close. Our guests today have been Mike Connelly; he’s an instructor at the University of Oklahoma. Stephanie Davison is a Program Manager for FHI 360. The program today has been on Green Corrections produced by the National Institute of Corrections, Donna Ledbetter specifically, we always thank her for her wonderful programs. It’s called the Greening of Corrections at nicic.gov/greencorrections, and that video challenge, nicic.greencorrectionschallenge. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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