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Prisons are Microcosms of a City...and California is Conserving Energy and Water at CDCR

Society tends to shun its prison system...and reform will have to come from within. Sustainability is also first, an internal commitment to making a better world. The California correction system is addressing the prison system as a "city" environment with high leverage on conservation of energy, water, waste and transportation. Here are details.

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How green can prisons be? And the Correctional Department?

The California Correctional system has hundreds of buildings and facilities -- with some buildings built for using whale oil lamps in the 1880s. How do you update that kind of infrastructure?

The 1980s began the modern energy conservation program for CDCR - California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Twenty first century technologies are now being applied, such as teleconferencing, energy conservation standards for buildings, with high performance materials and high efficiency building systems. Peak load reduction through purchasing electrical substations and natural gas pipelines that could be leveraged with utility incentives for retrofits and energy bonds.

Prisons are microcosms like cities. They have complete residential and workforce systems that are integrated and can be approached as a system for environmental protection.

Water conservation has increased in importance as low water periods -- droughts -- have mandated water reductions. And potable water conservation also saves energy!

Sustainability and marine conservation was added to the earlier energy conservation strategies started in the 1980s. Environmental issues are expanding to the complete system -- water, energy, how budgets are allocated -- everything is part of sustainability.

You can learn many of the details of the CDCR's sustainability programs on a 35 minute Webcast presentation to the Correctional Technology Association on how California prisons are "going green." Chief Deputy Secretary Deborah Hysen highlights CDCR's efforts on conservation and sustainability programs.

More Information About CDCR Sustaianability

CDCR’s Energy conservation projects are monitored and organized under the Facility Planning, Construction and Management (FPCM) program.

Link to the CDCR Energy Savings website:

CDCR saves energy, water, and reduces landfill waste at its facilities. CDCR also generates electricity through solar power plants. These programs save the state money, reduce the load on grids and help reduce harmful pollutants into the atmosphere that have been generated from coal and natural gas in prior years.

In 2008, CDCR became a member of the Climate Registry, and has been recognized nationally for its efforts. The goal is to comply with the Governor’s S-20-04 Executive order and reduce energy usage by 20%, by 2015.

Incarceration as a Sustainable Society Issue

The correction system in California is the SECOND largest consumer of energy in state government (Second to the UC system)! 30 million sq ft of diverse building stock facilities with 24/7 operations!

The correctional industry is burgeoning...and until we figure out how America can decrease its reliance on prisons that incarcerate a higher percentage of our population than any other industrialized nation -- we need to at the very least, make these "cities" more sustainable. Maybe the green collar jobs movement theme, "jobs not jails", needs to start in the very jails that have direct contact with the people who can be trained in greener job skills and knowledge so they have marketable skills and a more holistic attitude about community ... and that will decrease recidivism.

Social justice is a significant part of sustainability...and those elements can also save costs, impacts and create a cradle to cradle solution for our "correctional" system. I'm glad the leaders are taking significant steps in the direction of understanding that everything is connected. We will all benefit from this growing awareness of a better way of living.

California is making strides in a more sustainable approach to corrections ... and I'm glad to see this progress in energy, transportation, zero waste...and more.


Edited by Carolyn Allen
| sustainability | california | california green business |


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