Washington state prisons cut costs to taxpayers, environment

Washing the inmates' laundry in cold water, composting kitchen waste and collecting rain water are holding down costs to both the taxpayer and the environment, says the Department of Corrections in Washington state.

The state's 15 prisons have seen some successes in the last four years: 23 percent less waste sent to dumps; 18 percent less vehicle fuel used; 1.5 percent less energy use per square foot; • 40 percent increase in recycling.

"It's like a lot of other things. It's where the light shines. There's some unexpected gains when you start going down the road on sustainability," said Dan Pacholke, the department's facilities administrator for Western Washington.

Inmates and staff at Cedar Creek Corrections Center have headed some of those efforts, particularly in water use and gardening. The 400-inmate center near Littlerock saves $4.64 per-offender, per year by using collected rainwater to irrigate its gardens, said Jerilee Johnson, local business adviser at the work camp. And the gardens save $15.15 per offender, per year in food costs, she said.

There's a line to get work in the center's composting and garden program, said Jeremy Wilcox, an inmate. And the fresh vegetables make for better lunches, he added.

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