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Monroe Crossroads Inmate Art Projects Win 12 Ribbons at Evergreen State Fair

December 20, 2016

By Dr. Michelle Scallon & Rachel Friederich

Department of Corrections

Image of a multi-colored origami cake containing 1,350 pieces of paper

Origami cake made by an inmate at Monroe Correctional Complex. It contains 1,350 individual pieces and took about 70 hours to assemble. (Photo Courtesy of Dr. Michelle Scallon, Monroe Correctional Complex) See photo gallery...

MONROE – Seven Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC) inmates won ribbons at the 2016 Evergreen State Fair in the open class division of the crafts and hobbies competition. Inmates at the prison entered various origami and beaded art into the competition. Several of the entries were comprised of thousands of pieces and one entry took about 100 hours to assemble.

The inmates are all part of the Crossroads transitional mental health program. The program is run in a 90-bed unit at the prison’s Minimum Security Unit. Participants in the program have been diagnosed with moderate mental disorders. The program is designed to create an opportunity for inmates to be successful and receive treatment while in a minimum security work camp setting. It helps inmates improve their pro-social skills prior to their release from prison. Participants engage with group activities including peer awareness meetings, mental health groups, and developing education and job-related skills. They also learn how to set goals, manage stress, and effectively interact with others.

The competing inmates won a total of 12 ribbons from the competition, including nine blue ribbons, a red ribbon and two “best in class” ribbons.

The participants said creating art not only helps them cope with stress and potential feelings of isolation that can come with living in a prison, but gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Efrain Medina, 50, entered an origami fish, chick and goose fabricated out of 1,150 paper pieces. He’s currently serving a 45-month sentence and was surprised when he found out he won three ribbons.

“It makes me feel really good to be recognized for the good things I am doing and not just the bad that I have done,” Medina said.

Jeremy Sanchez, 34, won a first place ribbon for his beaded jersey and necklace. His mother taught him how to bead when he was a boy and says beading helps connect him with his tribal ancestors.

“I love beading because it helps to relieve my stress, pass time and it’s important to my culture and heritage… The judges wrote a note to me about how impressed they were with the workmanship I put in and that makes me feel really good.”

Meaningful work promotes facility safety by providing individuals opportunities for self-improvement, promoting the adoption of a strong work ethic, and reducing inmate idleness. The Department of Corrections, (DOC) is committed to reducing recidivism through a corrections system that reflects these values of the community (RCW.72.09.010).


  • Robert Bebb, Best In Class, Origami
    • Entries: parrot (5,000 pieces, 100 hours), Cobra (600 pieces, 10 hours) Frog (350 pieces, 10 hours)
  • Jeremy Sanchez, First Place, Beading First Place, Beading
    • Entries: Jersey and Necklace (3,600 Beads, 42 hours)
  • Martin Witherspoon, First Place, Beading
    • Entries: Bama Pendant (3,600 beads, 36 hours), Cross and Necklace (718 beads, 14 hours)
  • James Pedrioli, First Place, Origami
    • Entry: Fish Family (365 pieces, 5 hours)
  • Lonzell Graham, First Place, Origami
    • Entry: Cake (1,350 pieces, 70 hours)
  • Efrain Medina, First Place, Origami
    • Entries: Chick (200 pieces, 5 hours), Goose (800 pieces, 20 hours), Fish (150 pieces, 3 hours)
  • Benjamin Vaagen, Second Place, Origami
    • Entry: Tree (900 pieces, 18 hours)