Washington state prison inmates have been working as ecological research assistants, partnered in recent years with scientists doing conservation projects, reports the Associated Press. Their efforts include breeding threatened butterflies and growing native flowers and prairie grasses. The programs have gained momentum recently, with one project earning an expansion grant from a federal agency this year. Prison officials from across the country are visiting Washington state penitentiaries to inspect the various projects.
At Cedar Creek Corrections Center, a medium-security prison in western Washington, two inmates have been nurturing a batch of small black-spotted frogs that will be ready for release into the wild Monday. Prison officials say it’s a logical pairing. They consider inmates ideal candidates for conservation projects since they can work in a controlled environment and have a lot of time to dedicate. The research also allows inmates to contribute a broader social good, officials say.