Gardening in prisons – plants and social rehabilitation

Gardening works wonders and this is the very reason why more and more people are confidently and passionately turning to this peacefulness inducing activity. This is what psychologists also relied on when they decided to implement and then expand a gardening therapy program in prisons. Slowly, dusty patches of land are turning into gardens in which the society’s worst undergo mental transformation by tending to plants and having the satisfaction of an own hand grown crop.

From San Quentin, California, Rikers Island in New York, to the Eastern Correctional Facility in Maryland, more and more prisons are adopting the gardening therapy program which has become a powerful rebirth metaphor, Washington Post writes on its website. The final goal is to change the convicts’ behavior and mentality and gardening plays a crucial role in their rehabilitation process.

“These guys have probably never seen something grow out of the ground. This is powerful stuff for them,” says Kathleen Green, the warden at Eastern Correctional Institution. For this very reason, they line up to attend the 10 hour per day gardening program.

Beth Waitkus runs a non-profit organization which is involved in such a gardening therapy programs in California’s prisons. She says the demand has been growing from prisons across the country. “The demand is huge. Prisons see the value of this. When you have to tend to a living thing, there’s a shift that happens in a person,” she pointed out.

The program also has a practical utility: the Eastern Correctional Facility, the largest in the state of Maryland, last year produced six tons of vegetables and fruit. Other than cutting costs for internal food, the crop here also helps in partially solving some medical problems since many convicts suffer from diabetes and hypertension.

On the other hand, gardening in prisons is showing effects in the overall rehabilitation process: studies done in California, the pioneer state in implementing this program, shows that under 10 per cent of participants returned to prison or jail, a dramatic improvement from the National Institute of Justice’s U.S. rate of more than 60 percent.

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