Nancy Hill

Prisoners Are Finding a New Purpose in Life by Helping Endangered Species

Six women sit on overturned crates tending to seedlings inside a greenhouse in Wilsonville, Oregon. Light filters through the clear plastic roof and a break in the clouds sends streaks of sunlight over an open end of the structure. Birds call out, interrupting the peaceful scene as the women focus on harvesting leaves from early blue violets planted in rows of black plastic containers. The violet leaves will be used to feed threatened silverspot butterflies. If it were not for the women’s florescent green vests and the bright orange Department of Corrections seal stamped on their jeans, the scene could easily be mistaken for a commercial nursery. As it is, the women are prisoners behind the razor-wire fences surrounding Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, a minimum and medium security prison located on 108 acres in western Oregon, less than 20 miles south of Portland.

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