MONROE, Wash. – Cleaning out what inmates flush down their toilets, Q-tips, tee-shirts and orange peels is not glamorous.
But Keone Padilla sees it as his future.
"Wastewater treatment is my way out of crime. This is my savior," said Padilla, who is serving a four-year sentence for burglary.
He worked construction as a teen, but never envisioned himself working in the wastewater industry.
"It's a dirty job. It does stink," Padilla said.
Now he and another inmate, Dylan Ryan, are running the facility at the Monroe Correctional Complex.
With their own money, they bought textbooks and participated in a correspondence course to learn the basics.
Under the supervision of Department of Corrections staffers, the two offenders work at the wastewater facility on the complex 35 hours a week.
Padilla received the certificate from the Department of Ecology needed to work at a similar facility when he's released next year.
Ryan just took his test for the certificate.
"My fingers are crossed," said the 23-year-old, who is serving time for robbery.
His most recent conviction was his second felony. A third conviction would result in a life sentence under the state's "Three Strikes and You're Out" law.
"That scares me," said Ryan, who thinks having a certificate will help him find a job and stay away from crime.
"I'm tired of not following the rules and being an outlaw," said Ryan.
According to the Department of Corrections, more than 90 percent of the state's offenders will eventually be released into the community.
In the three years since offenders at Monroe have been working at the wastewater facility, 10 have received certificates from the Department of Ecology.
A number have found jobs with facilities after their releases.
The positions can pay more than $20 an hour.
Padilla said he's not the only one to benefit from a job that prevents him from re-offending.
He said taxpayers won't have to support him anymore and the community will likely be safer.
"Potentially you've prevented somebody's house from getting burglarized," said Padilla. "That's what I'm in here for."