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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Inmates join in tree growing with Green Sleeves

A Geiger Corrections Center inmate plants Ponderosa pines Nov. 14, as part of Green Sleeves, a collaboration involving The Lands Council and Geiger. (Colin Mulvany)

You might not think prison is a good environment for growing things, but Amanda Parrish from The Lands Council is quick to point out the advantages.

On Nov. 14, she and conservation program director Kat Hall brought 200 hundred Ponderosa pines to Geiger Corrections Center. A crew of inmates got busy planting the saplings in pots.

Parrish pointed at the fence surrounding the facility. “These young saplings are prime deer food,” she said. “But they’ll be safe from deer in here.”

The workday was part of Green Sleeves, a new collaboration between The Lands Council, Geiger Corrections Center and the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund.

“A core mission of the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund is to reduce poverty in the Inland Northwest,” said trustee Sharon Smith in a news release. “We especially seek new projects that provide our vulnerable citizens access to tools and resources to achieve sustainable well-being, and Green Sleeves fits the bill. That it makes positive environmental impacts in our community and includes development of an on-site nursery for even more offender activities and education is icing on the cake.”

A barren swath of land at Geiger will soon be dotted with young trees. “We’re planning on housing over 5,000 native plants here,” Parrish said. “It will be 10 times the size of our existing nursery in Spokane Valley.”

A key part of the project is the education component, said Jon Simbler, program sergeant at Geiger. Participants who successfully complete the educational component of Green Sleeves will be prepared to work for local landscaping firms.

Additionally, Geiger work crews will help with restoration work and maintenance of native trees and shrubs in local watersheds. In October, folks from the Lands Council had their first workday with a crew of eight offenders from Geiger who helped at one of the restoration sites.

“The day was very successful,” said Parrish. “In only three hours the crew had planted, watered and applied herbivory repellent to over 100 native willows and in the remaining hour the crew watered hundreds of other trees on site that had been planted earlier.”

Hall sees the program as “a win-win-win partnership.” She sees benefits for the Geiger inmates, the environment and the community in general, because the program aims to reduce recidivism rates.

Simbler agreed. “It’s a beautiful collaboration.”