(komonews.com)—In the coming weeks, these prisoners – which include the most dangerous and unruly of the overall prison population – will have the option of using the hour outside of their cells to watch sunsets, mountains and underwater seascapes through a program that brings the outdoors inside, via video, projected on a blank recreation room wall.
The hope of corrections officials is that by offering a regular visual dose of nature, inmates will be calmer, guards will deal with fewer outbursts or violent interactions, and overall safety in the unit will increase.
The so-called “Blue Room” is based on a program of the same name in an Oregon prison that has seen some early success with prisoners in its solitary confinement wing.
Officials at Washington Corrections Center have installed a projector in one of the recreation rooms and are working out the final details before making it available to inmates in their intensive management unit.
Starting a few weeks ago, in a room painted blue and decorated with plants, prison officials starting showing the videos to prisoners with intellectual disabilities who are part of a special unit at the prison.
The prison, about 30 miles northwest of Olympia, is the first in the state to set up the videos, though others have expressed interest, including Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla.
“If there’s something that shows promise and is going to make it a better work environment for our staff and for offenders, that’s something we need to take seriously,” said Steve Sinclair, the state Department of Corrections’ assistant secretary over prisons.
The blue room is the latest endeavor from the state Department of Corrections’ partnership with the Sustainability in Prisons Project at Evergreen State College in Olympia. Through that effort, prisoners at various facilities have been involved in programs to breed endangered frogs and threatened butterflies and to grow native flowers and prairie grasses.
Last year, Washington corrections officials met with their counterparts at Snake River Correctional Institute in Ontario, Oregon, which has been using its room since April 2013.