A group of inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP), also known as Walla Walla, are doing something positive with their lives. They have developed a water filtration system that filters out harmful bacteria and make water safer.
These water filtration devices are shipped out to poor countries facing waterborne diseases. The inmates have perfected their art at the Sustainable Practices Lab located within the prison facility.
The SafeTap Water Filtration System Is a Product of Project 41
The new water filtration device is known as the SafeTap system. It was initially developed by Andy Pierce, an ex-plumbing contractor who founded Project 41 – a nonprofit based out of California.
Pierce started Project 41 after he visited Haiti in 2010 following a deadly earthquake. Project 41 organization helps global communities dealing with bacteria-contaminated water supplies to access cleaner, portable water.
Pierce’s water filtration device is made from a combination of pipes, fittings and valves. The filters are filled with tiny straws created from fiber membranes that inhibit the passage of bacteria.
This device can be attached to existing water systems and it will block out bacteria to produce very clean water safe for drinking and other domestic use. The device can filter about three gallons of water within one minute.
How Did Pierce’s Invention Become a Job for Prison Inmates?
It was by a chance meeting. Pierce attended a conference for inventors in Oregon and exhibited his water filtration system. Two correctional specialists who worked at the Walla Walla prison’s Sustainable Practices Lab, Christopher McGill and Robert Branscum, stopped by Pierce’s booth.
They asked questions and he told them about SafeTap and even demonstrated it.
The officers introduced SafeTap to Sustainable Practices Lab at the Washington State Penitentiary. Nine inmates loved the technology and idea that it will make water safer in countries plagued by water-borne diseases.
These inmates now assemble the water filtration system and ship them out to countries in need of portable, safe water.
An Inmate Serving a Life Sentence Is Happy To Be Part of the Safetap Assembly Crew
The prison team has succeeded in assembling over 150 units of SafeTap. Many of these have been shipped out to Puerto Rico, the Tortola islands of the British Virgin Islands, Uganda and Ghana among other countries.
One of the happy crew helping with assembling SafeTap at the penitentiary is 49-year-old Keith Parkins. He is serving a life sentence for several robberies. He knows helping with SafeTap will not impact on his prison sentence, but he is happy to be doing something worthwhile behind bars.
“As a prisoner, I have always felt like I was a drain on society,” Parkins said. “But now, through the Sustainable Practices Lab and the water department, I am able to be a part of something that is literally saving lives throughout the world. In the process, it’s saving my life as well.”