Q4 Fit for Life Focus: Health of Environment

The fourth quarter focus of the MTC Fit of Life program is environmental health. This is an effort to individually analyze a correctional facility or detention center to determine what can be done to improve the general environmental conditions for residents and staff in a simple, secure, and cost-effective way.

MTC consultant Cathryn Lokey leads the initiative.

“So, we have people in these environments that we want them to be rehabilitated,” she says. “We want them to learn; we want them to go out into the world and be healthier and better able to cope. But suppose we have them in these environments for long periods that are just wearing away at their ability to do that. In that case, that’s going to be counterproductive.”

Exploring environmental health at Otero County Prison Facility

Cathryn continued, “So, that’s what we’re doing: going into the environments and doing an informal assessment, asking questions, talking to people. And then making recommendations for what we see, according to what the needs of the facility are, what their resources are, and what the research says is going to be most impactful. What changes will be the most impactful to improve the lives of the people working there? And the people who live there, of course.”

An assessment was recently made at the Otero County Prison Facility (OCPF), resulting in strategic but minor changes. The first indicators suggest the improvements are having an impact.

Based on individual assessments, Health of Environment changes can include:
– Increasing access to natural light where possible
– Switching out fluorescent light bulbs to full spectrum LEDs
– Installing air filters
– Bringing in plants to strengthen a connection to nature and improve air quality
– Creating absorbent, uneven surfaces to soften grating noise, including installing wood where possible
– Keeping thermostats on the cooler side

“When we as human beings are in environments that are good for us, that are conducive to a healthy mental, emotional and physical state, we perform better. We function better. We’re not as sick; we’re not as stressed out; we’re not as reactive. And I think that’s the big thing. If we can shift these environments in tiny ways, that’s what the initiative is all about.”

Cathryn’s impressions remain the same through her work with this MTC project and others.

“I want just to reiterate how wonderful MTC staff are. I mean, I’m just amazed by the staff. And I’m amazed by the leadership.”

Health of Environment Update WEB STORY Still
Cathryn Lokey with OCPF staff