Prisons may seem to be an unorthodox location for conservation work, but Carri LeRoy, project co-director of the SPP, says: “There’s a lot of clean, controlled space, and people with time on their hands, looking to do something valuable and change their lives.”
“Most people are in the prison yard talking about who did them wrong,” says Aubrey. “Then, all of a sudden, guards will tell us they hear people saying, ‘Hey did you see how that moss was growing?’ ”
The women in the checkerspot project have already reintroduced more than 800 of the butterflies into the wild, and raised more than 3,600 caterpillars for next year’s release. The Taylor’s checkerspot is found in just four small populations in Washington and Oregon, and it now lays its eggs on plantain, an introduced species. No one knew what the butterfly’s original host plants were. The inmates found out by allowing the adults to choose between three candidates and showed that they prefer to lay eggs on two native species — the harsh paintbrush and golden paintbrush — rather than the exotic plantain.
The golden paintbrush might be the butterfly’s original host, but it is also threatened. With the information from the inmates’ project, efforts to conserve both the plant and the butterfly could be combined. “That would eliminate the need to plant the exotic plantain at reintroduction sites,” says Aubrey. When the results are finally published, the inmates will be contributing authors on the paper.
Of the 238 prisoners who attended a single lecture and were later released, only two returned to prison within a year — a rate of 0.8%, compared to the usual average of 10.4%. Of the 78 prisoners who took part in actual conservation work, 18 have been released, none have re-offended and one-third are employed.
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(from @PhotoMonkey on Streamzoo)