18 October 2011

Butterflies are free (though their keepers aren't)

A hat tip to Keith for alerting me to an article in the Seattle Times about a new program instituted in the state of Washington, in which inmates raise butterflies:
Landa, 29, and another inmate from Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women have spent eight hours a day, seven days a week for much of the year reading, writing and watching butterflies.

"It's a wonderful experience and it's very rewarding," Landa said. "It's very interesting and amazing to help populate life."

Earning an average inmate wage of 42 cents an hour, the two women are part of a training program ultimately designed to boost the population of Taylor's checkerspot, a once-thriving species of Northwest butterfly now considered threatened...

There are only a handful of known populations of Taylor's checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) butterflies in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. The species has long been on the minds of local conservationists and the military because the largest concentration of the thumb-sized black, white and orange butterfly is on a swath of grassland that abuts a live-fire artillery range on Joint Base Lewis-McChord...

For several years, The Evergreen State College has partnered with the state Department of Corrections to create jobs for inmates to study everything from mosses to frogs. In the course of their studies, the inmates also play an active role in increasing populations of wildlife...

"We don't just want to have them focus on producing butterflies. We want them to understand what they are doing," Bush said. "Hopefully, it inspires them to seek environmental careers or additional education, or, at the very least, it helps them understand our ecosystems better."

A grant from the military paid for supplies for the $35,000 greenhouse at Mission Creek Corrections Center; inmates built the facility, according to corrections staff.


  1. I'm a big fan of programs like these. Anything to give inmates something useful to do - and bonus points if they're learning marketable skills along the way.

    I know there have been studies done showing that the recidivism of inmates who participate in religious programs is far lower than for non-participants convicted of equivalent crimes. I wonder if there's a proven drop for programs like these as well. If that $35,000 greenhouse keeps one of the woman from re-offending, it's probably just paid for itself.

    And it's all good for local ecology, to boot. :-)

  2. It's our new slave labour force, soon we'll be able to comnpete with China.
    And the programme is paid for by the military. I am sure saving butterflies is right at the top of their list.

  3. Their motivation is made clear in the article. If their weapons testing continues to endanger the only remaining habitat, then their weapons testing might be curtailed. It's in their best interest to establish breeding populations in other locations.


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