Prison Ecology Project

The mission of the Prison Ecology Project is to map the intersections of mass incarceration and environmental degradation, and create action plans to address the multitude of problems found there.

The Prison Ecology Project addresses issues such as: damage of sewage and industrial waste from overpopulated and under-regulated prisons into to water ways; threats to listed species by the ongoing construction and operation of prisons in remote, environmentally-sensitive rural areas; and environmental justice concerns regarding prisoners, staff and surrounding communities.

Check out our partners at The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons


Recent News

Alabama Prisoner File NEPA Lawsuit Against New Prison Construction
Prisoners inside the Elmore and Escambia prisons, directly across from the new 4,000 bed “mega-prison” sites, resist construction alongside local nature enthusiasts
Prisoners File Unprecedented Environmental Lawsuit Against Proposed Federal Prison in Kentucky
By Panagioti Tsolkas / Prison Legal News After more than three years of a controversial environmental review process for the proposed USP Letcher, conducted by the Bureau of Prisons and their consulting firm Cardno, lawyers filed a lawsuit in November 2018 on behalf of 21 federal priso...
Climate Change is Causing Cruel & Unusual Punishment: Tell Congress to Recognize the Demands of Prison Strikers
This week, a global climate justice convergence in San Francisco will coincide with the national prison strike. Alongside the Prison Ecology Project and Fight Toxic Prisons, Nati...
Arkansas DOC says water is safe, but didn’t test it from prisoners’ taps
In July of this year, former prisoners and their family members raised concerns about a variety of prison issues at a hearing with state lawmakers. This included repeated concerns with water quality at multiple facilities. One former prisoner stated that water in the East Arkansas Unit was not even ...
Water at Massachusetts largest state prison facing scrutiny from prisoners, scientists and public health agencies
By Panagioti Tsolkas Wayland Coleman, a prisoner at MCI-Norfolk, stepped out of the shower and noticed something strange last year. It was as if his towel was, in his words, “was used to wipe dirt off the floor.” [Image of Coleman to the right] “I don’t know exactly what is in...
Federal Correctional Complex at the Center of Prison Town Water Debacle
The area was once locally renown for coal mining and uranium milling, and while the beauty of the land endured despite the industrial activity, there’s not much aside from prisons happening there economically anymore.
Major victory with EPA recognizing "Prison Ecology" on EJSCREEN
Two years ago, the concept of Prison Ecology was introduced to the world, building off the work of jailhouse lawyers, scholars and activists around the country. On many occasions spanning the last 4 decades of the prison boom (in which prisoner populations increased by 700%), prisoners and ...
Update on Letcher prison: DOJ budget rescinds request for $444 million
Over the past week, the Prison Ecology Project, the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons and our allies have been reviewing the Department of Justice (DOJ) proposed 2018 budget and listening in o...
Sewage Plagued Michigan Prison, Despite Repeated Complaints
Recent conditions at Parnall have been literally poisoning people through prolonged exposure to emissions from human feces.
Updates from the Fight Against Toxic Prisons
From First, a huge thanks to the people who came out to the Civic Media Center earlier this month to help send a mass mailing from the Camp...
Complaints launched over toxic conditions at Texas’ Eastham Unit prison
The Texas prison system, known as TDCJ, has become a litmus test for dealing with toxic environmental conditions for prisoners. Earlier this year, prisoners from the Wallace Pack unit and their advocates on the outside succeeded in compelling a judge to order clean water to people held in that facil...
Over 130 Organizations Challenge EPA to Consider Prisoners in Environmental Justice Plan
Washington, D.C. – The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) submitted a public comment to the Environmental Protection Agency today that provides input on the agency’s final draft of the EJ 2020 Action Agenda...
Fighting Toxic Prisons: Reflections and Next Steps from the June 11 Convergence in D.C.
from First off, a huge “Thank You” to the folks that helped make the convergence last month happen. There are ...
Convergence on Toxic Prisons begins this weekend in D.C.
In just 2 days, we will converge in DC to network, organize and take action against the toxic prison system.
Five things to help build the #PrisonEcology movement
Here are five things you can do today to help build the #PrisonEcology movement and the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons
It's Not Just Prisoners in Flint Getting Screwed by Toxic Prisons…
Many of you have likely seen the news by now of the latest toxic prison atrocity, where prisoners in Flint have been lied to and stuck using contaminated water. We know this is not an isolated phenomenon—things like this are happening in prisons all over the country.
Prison Ecology and the Flint Water Crisis
By now, much of the world knows that politicians like Michigan Governor Rick Synder sat on their hands while knowing that public water was poisoning the residents of Flint with lead and Legionnaire’s Disease.
Escambia County Plans for new Jail on Former EPA Superfund Site
A new jail in Pensacola is being considered for 26 acres which was home to the Escambia Wood Treating Company (ETC) who was found to have contaminated an underground aquifer and hundreds of thousands of tons of soil.
CCA claims its facilities in Arizona lead the way in water systems
Near 10,000 people held in this private prisons complex requires treating between 750,000 to one million gallons of water every day in drought-stricken Pinal County.
Prison Ecology and the Pope
Pope Francis to visit prison with history of environmental problems
Updates from the Fight to Stop a New Toxic Prison in Central Appalachia
HRDC's Prison Ecology Project files an updated comment on the Bureau of Prisons' final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Letcher County plan
Greenwashing Washington State’s Prison System in a River of Sewage
This article represents an environmental epidemic among prisons nationwide, and indicates exactly why “the greenest prison is an empty one” ... The cache of state records obtained by the Human Rights Defense Center here reveals that roughly half-a-million gallons of sewage water and other contaminates have been dumped from the Monroe prison’s wastewater system over the last eight years, polluting rivers and wetlands in the Puget Sound watershed.
Proposed Federal Prison in Letcher County: Not Just an Eastern Kentucky Issue
The half-a-billion dollar cost of building this prison isn't its only problem; along with the over-incarceration that is tearing human communities apart, there is also a serious environmental toll.
Prison Ecology Project Launches Crowdfunding Campaign
The Human Rights Defense Center’s Prison Ecology Project is creating tools to dismantle toxic prisons. We are the only group focused on the intersection of environment and mass incarceration. Your contributions will provide needed start-up funds for on-the-ground work to bridge the gap between criminal justice reform and environmental movements.
Ninety-Three Organizations Challenge EPA to Consider Prisoners in Environmental Justice Plan
The EPA has never cited the health and safety of prisoners exposed to such environmental conditions as a factor in prison inspections or in the permitting of new facilities.
Decision on prison won’t be revealed until late summer
Letcher County residents may have to wait until the end of the summer to find out whether or not a federal prison will be constructed in Letcher County.
Demand Environmental Justice for Millions in Prison
Summary of pending HRDC comment to the EPA on the inclusion of prisoner populations in environmental justice demographic statistics and regulatory input for permitting
Poison Prison: Is toxic dust sickening inmates locked up in coal country?
The prison at Fayette sits adjacent to a massive coal ash dump site. For years, local LaBelle residents, and more recently prison guards at Fayette, have complained that the site has been making them sick.
The Ecology of a Police State: HRDC’s panel at the 2015 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
A panel exploring the intersections between mass incarceration and environmental degradation
GEO Group’s Gulags Grasping for Green Approval
All the LEED certifications in the world can’t cover up the constant flow of atrocities associated with prisons-for-profit, but that’s not going to stop them from trying.