Science TEDTalks

What happens when prisoners breed endangered butterflies

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Photo courtesy of Nature

An endangered species of butterfly has found an unusual set of champions — the inmates of the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Washington.

While the number of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies has dwindled in Washington in recent years,  the Mission Creek inmates are working hard to help the species rebound, reports the Nature magazine blog. By breeding the butterflies in a greenhouse outside the prison, the inmates released more than 800 butterflies into the wild this year, while other local prison groups pitched in efforts to conserve the plants that these butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on. So far, the Mission Creek inmates have raised more than 3,600 caterpillars for next year’s release.

The Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly revival is a part of the Sustainability in Prisons Project, the creation of frequent TED speaker Nalini Nadkarni. Below, check out Nalini’s powerful TEDTalks, on researching animals that thrive in rainforest canopies and on bringing appreciation of nature into prisons.

Nalini Nadkarni: On conserving the canopy
In this talk from TED2009, Nalini describes the unique ecosystem of plants, birds and monkeys that thrives in the treetops of the rainforest. She explains how she’s working to preserve these species through dance, art and bold partnerships.

Nalini Nadkarni: Life science in prisons
Yes — prisoners are confined behind bars, says Nalini Nadkarni in this talk from TED2010. But while they don’t get to experience nature firsthand, they still can enjoy thinking about the natural world. Here, Nalini explains her efforts to bring science lectures into prisons in the state of Washington.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project has impressive statistics so far. According to the Nature magazine blog, of the 238 prisoners who attended a single lecture and were later released, only 2 returned to prison within a year — a very, very low rate.

Comments (9)

  • Pingback: The Sustainability in Prisons Project | Indiana University Office of Sustainability

  • Lynn Crawford commented on Aug 19 2012

    I doubt people are getting themselves sent to prison for the science lectures! What a silly statement. It’s nice to see the prisoners doing something useful and educational while they’re incarcerated, rather than watching TV and playing video games.

    • commented on Aug 19 2012

      I agree and they are working. It’s useful. While in prison why not help Mother Earth? I was reading about Stafford Creek Correction Center and they are recycling garbage, etc.

  • Lynn Clark commented on Aug 18 2012

    yisra’el -”it must be nice to go to prison…” Really? Did you not get the message? Less people are returning to prison. If people are incarcerated isn’t it better to learn something and give back?

  • Yehoshua Yisra'el commented on Aug 16 2012

    That’s pretty cool about the butterflies, but this blog bothers me. You may be asking why it bothers me. It bothers me because the message is if you become a criminal and go to prison, you can get science letures and experiences for free while the rest of us would have to pay for them. It must be nice to go to prison and learn all about nature while the rest of us have to work.

  • kris piecha commented on Aug 12 2012

  • commented on Aug 10 2012

    Great idea!

  • commented on Aug 10 2012

    Such an inspiring story! Kudos on such a great idea — the world needs more people like her!

  • Karen Francis commented on Aug 9 2012

    I love that she is supporting the arts as a powerful way of communicating to the world and idea!