Prison Gardens Grow New Lives for Inmates
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of ABC News blog
Posted: January 6th, 2014
From Enfield, Conn., to New York City and the San Francisco Bay, lush gardens filled with ripe fruits, vegetables and flowers are growing in unexpected places prison yards. Prisons use them to rehabilitate inmates and to teach them basic landscaping skills that they can use to get jobs. For the last three years, all 18 state prisons in Connecticut have had garden programs. None cost taxpayers money. Last year, Connecticut prisons produced more than 35,000 pounds of produce saving taxpayers $20,000 a year by putting produce back into the prison system. We believe that everybody has a heart and everybody has a chance for transformation, said Beth Waitkus, the director of the Insight Garden Program that started 10 years ago at San Quentin prison. What happens with gardening is they reconnect to themselves. They reconnect to their feelings. They reconnect to each other as a community, a small community in the prison, and they really reconnect to nature. And, I think that offers a huge opportunity for transformation when we reconnect to ourselves and to the natural world. While Waitkus spends her time in San Quentin teaching inmates how to plant flowers, take care of soil and prune plants, she also keeps the connection strong once they leave prison. Nationally, the recidivism rate is more than 60 percent, according to the 2011 Annual Recidivism Report. For garden prisoners at San Quentin, Waitkus said the return rate is less than 10 percent, and most other prison gardens report return rates in the single digits. In Connecticut, officials say not one of the garden graduates has returned.
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