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 PE 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.

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Major victory with EPA recognizing "Prison Ecology" on EJSCREEN

Sep 7, 2017 | by Panagioti Tsolkas

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 their advocates had noted environmental concerns in local battles surrounding prison operations as well as efforts to stop new prison construction.

In 2015, the Human Rights Defense Center decided that the problem was far beyond the scope of local campaigns, and initiated the Prison Ecology Project to address the issue on a national level.

This summer, the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice formally announced that it would be including the location of prisons in their updated EJSCREEN mapping tool. More about EJSCREEN can be found here.
Today, September 7, 2107, at 1pm ET the EPA has a webinar on their new EJSCREEN map, which at  the request of the Prison Ecology Project (PEP), the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) and over 130 other groups and prominent figures, includes 6000+ prisons, jails and detention facilities.

Prisons on the EJSCREEN map

This is a big deal.

What it means is that we can now easily look at prisons in proximity to other sites of environmental concern has been done for us. And other agencies who rely on this map to review environmental permits will have no excuse to not do the same.

Using this new feature, we can create reports and release them for journalists write about, policy people to review and activists to organize around.

But what the EPA map will not have is a narrative to accompany the map which includes input from prisoners letters, news articles and public records requests about many of the listed facilities.

We are in the process of creating such a map, which would be populated with data collected by HRDC and FTP. The map could even link image files of powerful hand-written letters from prisoners that we have collected, to give a personal connection to the direct source.

Please get in touch if you have technical skills that can help develop this map and/or you can donate to support it getting out to the world: ptsolkas@prisonlegalnews.org or FightToxicPrisons@gmail.org