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Gardens Prevent Prison Return, The OC Jacks School Funds, and More

April 6th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

With Taylor Walker


A growing number of corrections facilities across the US are surprised to find that inmates who participate in gardening programs are significantly less likely to return to prison than the national average predicts.

Pattie Baker writing for Youth Today, has the rest of this terrifically cheering story. Here’s a clip:

The most recent study by the Pew Center for the States and the Association of State Correctional Administrators found the [national] rate of recidivism (percentage of people released from prisons who are rearrested, convicted, or returned to custody within three years) to be 43.3 percent. What may be surprising, however, is that correctional facilities with a few years under their belt with a garden are finding not just reduced recidivism rates, but significantly reduced rates. According to the WorldWatch Institute, Sandusky County Jail in Ohio finds a recidivism rate of only 18 percent from those inmates who participate in its garden program, as opposed to 40 percent for those who don’t. Graduates of the Greenhouse Program at Rikers Island in New York City experience a 5-10 percent recidivism rate, as opposed to 65 percent in the general inmate population. Participants in The Garden Project at the San Francisco County Jail have a 24 percent recidivism rate, rather than 55 percent otherwise.

Jail gardening programs that involve people at even younger ages show promising positive effects in not only reducing recidivism but also helping youth avoid first-time offenses. Sidney Morgan, the Community Works Leader for the Department of Community Justice in Multnomah County, Ore., sees big changes in youth when they work in a garden. Morgan runs Project Sega (which means “to grow”) which provides youth on probation the opportunity to work on a quarter-acre garden to pay restitution for their offenses. Produce from this garden is sold at New Seasons supermarkets in the metro-Portland area, and the participating youth get the opportunity to plant, maintain, harvest from the garden, prep the food, and bring it to market. Morgan says New Seasons will even offer jobs to youth in Project Sega after they are done with probation. Through Project Sega, Morgan claims they learn that they can be successful, and that crime is not their only option.

“I’ve been doing probation work for seven years, and I’ve never seen anything like the reaction and results we get from kids who participate in gardening,” Morgan exclaimed.


The State of California filed a lawsuit against Orange County on Thursday to prevent the budget-strapped OC from using education funds ($73.5M worth) to pay other bills, leaving the state to foot the bill for schools. While California would be held to a constitutional requirement for funding K-12, if the court ruled in favor of the OC, community colleges could take a big hit with the loss of county funding.

The LA Times has the story.

Ted Guest at The Crime Report writes about a new DOJ and MacArthur Foundation-funded study,Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration,” headed by eighteen corrections experts, will study the the nation’s 2.3M prison population (roughly six times that of most other countries). Research will explore possible low-cost, high-social benefit alternatives to current prison policies.

The panel of scholars, chaired by Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, will examine the reasons for the dramatic increases in U.S. incarceration rates since the 1970s, which have produced one of the world’s highest incarceration levels—with more than 2.3 million people behind bars in U.S. prisons and jails at any time

The topic has been widely discussed and analyzed for years by advocacy groups on the left and right, as well as by individual scholars. But the two-year, $1.5 million project, convened by the National Research Council (part of the National Academy of Sciences) represents the first time in recent memory that these issues have been subject to wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary research.

“It now is time to review the state of knowledge—to look at the causes of the high rate of incarceration and the consequences for society,” said Travis, author of But They All Came Back: Facing the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry (2005).

Posted in California budget, Education, Free Speech, Orange County, prison, prison policy | 2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. AshamedToBeaDeputy Says:

    It’s common knowledge that it’s not necessarily what you do, but when you do it. Political atmosphere plays a huge part in what action will be taken against you, not the egregiousness of the offense. The other day I read about a federal magistrate who forwarded an off color email. I had absolutely no problem with email, but had a huge problem with living in a society that has federal magistrates as STUPID as this guy was. Has he not read the news about all the idiotic politicians fried for the same thing. So back to LASD. I don’t have a huge problem with tapping a trustees skill set, but taking the guy golphing??? Are you kidding me??? In today’s public scrutiny of our department, you are going to do something so idiotic. Has this guy been living under a Catalina boulder for the last year. Does Catalina have access to Witness LA or the Times? Please tell me this guy was an imposter posing as an LASD Captain, because an LASD Captain just can’t be that STUPID!!!!!!

  2. Cognistator Says:

    Regarding the piece on gardening, the California State Prisons, in conjunction with CalFire (formerly known as the California Division of Forestry) has long had a program where inmate work crews, located in minimum security Forest camps in remote areas of the State, fought wildfires & did other forestry work. This program has been in effect for a good many decades now, and seems to be working well. If inmates misbehave they’re rolled up back to someplace like Soledad or Folsom, but they don’t misbehave because living conditions in their camps are pretty good.

    I worked my way through college as a seasonal firefighter with CalFire & worked with these inmate fire crews and saw firsthand the rehabilitative effects of the work they did.

    I also firmly believe that if the State Prison system could establish a similar system that would provide a Community College education or higher at a campus located in a remote part of the State, as the Forestry inmate camps are, the rehabilitative benefits would be incalculable.

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