How Prison Gardens Cut Recidivism, Save Taxpayer Money


NPR reports on a “vibrant movement of prison vegetable gardens” across the U.S. that provide inmates with satisfying work, marketable skills and fresh food to eat. From Connecticut to Minnesota to California, correctional authorities are finding all kinds of reasons to encourage inmates to produce their own food inside the walls. Planting Justice helped oversee a garden at San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco project in partnership with Insight Garden Program, which has been helping inmates at San Quentin rehabilitate and get training in flower gardening since 2003.

Those gardening skills are being put to use once the men leave San Quentin as well. In the past three years, Planting Justice has hired 10 former inmates to work on landscaping jobs. They get an entry-level wage of $17.50 per hour. Pew Charitable Trusts says that more than four in 10 offenders return to prison within three years. Planting Justice says the recidivism rate for the men who go through the garden program is 10 percent. Programs in other states have had similar successes. In 2012, Nourishing the Planet, a blog of the Worldwatch Institute, put together this list of five urban garden prison projects. It notes that not only do the garden programs help with rehabilitation, they also often save states and local government thousands of dollars.

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