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Incarcerated Individuals Give Executive Residence a Holiday Makeover

December 28, 2018

By Rachel Friederich

DOC Communications

(Rachel Friederich, DOC Communications)

INFOGRAPHIC: Decorations by the Numbers

Seven women incarcerated at Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor visited the Executive Residence December 3, 2018 to decorate it for its annual holiday tours.

By the end of the day, the women had adorned the grand staircase, windows, and doorways in pine garlands, colorful wreaths, twinkling lights, and floral arrangements. The festive trimmings included fresh hydrangeas, roses, and holly cultivated by students in the prison’s floriculture and horticulture vocational programs.

It takes 25 wreaths of various sizes and 880 inches of cedar garland–among other lights and embellishments–to decorate the residence. No taxpayer money is used for the decorations; community donations and revenues from private events at the Executive Residence fund the holiday decor.

The decorating tradition just entered its sixth year. It started after First Lady Trudi Inslee toured the correctional facility in 2012. She was so impressed with the floriculture and horticulture programs that she invited students enrolled in those programs to decorate the Residence for the holidays.

Floriculture and horticulture are two of the many vocational educational programs where enrollees can use their experience to earn college credit through Tacoma Community College. Floriculture instructor Bob Andren said the Residence isn’t the only thing that gets transformed.

“The women in the program just bloom,” Andren said. “Their confidence goes up, their skills go up, and everything changes.”

Andren said his students can use their new skills in fields such as landscaping, plant production, and nursery management. They can also use their skills to potentially get jobs decorating homes, businesses, and event venues.

Lisa Mumm, 54, hopes to do just that. She’ll be released from prison in 2020, after serving a 115-month sentence. Mumm said she never graduated high school, but now has plans to get a job working for a state or municipal park after she leaves the correctional system.

“Prison has been a high point in my life,” Mumm said. “I’ve done more positive things in prison, and furthered my education and done more in my life than I ever have before. I’m grateful for this program. It’s made a big difference in my life.”

Keeping Communities Safe

Department of Corrections takes steps to ensure public safety when individuals in their custody visit the Residence. Trained correctional officers and class instructors accompany them at all times. Residence security staff are also notified of the visitors.

Taking a trip to the Residence is a privilege for these incarcerated individuals, and a strict set of requirements are mandated for those seeking to make the trip. These individuals must be infraction free for at least a year, have a minimum-security custody level, and have less than four years remaining on their sentences. They must also have earned a GED or high school diploma and be enrolled in the prison’s horticulture or floriculture programs. Additionally, department staff conduct screenings to make sure these potential visitors to the Residence don’t have connections to gang members or crime victims in the local community.

Kristy Pruett, 42, will be released from prison next year. The visit earlier this month to decorate the Residence was her second during her incarceration. She’s nearing the completion of a 60-month sentence.

Pruett said the experience in the horticulture class changed her and she’s no longer the person she once was. She’s developed a passion for horticulture in prison and has dreams to work on an organic farm after her release.

She said the program and the chance to decorate the Residence is a testament to how people can change.

“I came as a person who couldn’t survive in a social setting, and now look what we can do,” Pruett said. “For us to come here, it shows our dedication to our program and all the things that we have learned–this is our way of giving back and making positive memories for our futures.”