Actual Good News, from Prison Gardens


A reader sent me the link to this New York Times story about the garden at Riker’s Island, the notorious New York prison slated to be closed. Rant readers won’t be surprised by this feel-good story about gardening, but at this time of year and especially this scary time in history, can’t we all use one?

Highlights for me:

Riker’s garden has a “remarkable track record for keeping inmates who have worked the soil there out of prison,” with one study  showing that “participants in the GreenHouse program had a 40 percent lower rate of reconviction than inmates in the general prison population.”

And one prison gardener’s experience:

“I didn’t like dirt, I didn’t like bugs,” he said as he prepared some flowering echinacea for a circular bed. “But I gave the garden a chance, and it’s like crazy, I fell in love with it.” He says that he especially enjoys pruning the roses. “It’s a thinking job, it’s like a puzzle,” he said. “You need to figure out what bad stuff to cut out to get the good stuff to grow.” Mr. Cruz now spends 20 hours a week there.

Interestingly, “the focus of the garden shifted from vocational training to life skills: self-care, nutrition, teamwork, personal responsibility.”

Along those lines, we learn about the Insight Garden Program, “which combines gardening with mindfulness training. It operates in California’s San Quentin prison and 13 other facilities nationwide.” Wow.

Above, a moment from this video about the Insight Garden Program at San Quentin.


  1. Interested readers should check out the 2000 Joel Hershman fiilm “Greenfingers”, set in Britain in a similar scenario, and based on a true account.

  2. There are at least a couple of prisons here in New Zealand where the prisoners grow food for community kitchens, Women’s Refuge, low-decile schools etc. It’s good for the prisoners, and it allows them to make a positive contribution to the community.

  3. Gardening has something odd built into it. For everyone.


    Gardens, Nature, walking thru, or partaking in poyeema with both, we’re connecting to their electricity and gas emissions. Electricity matching same exact current of our brain & heart. Gas emissions that enters our body thru our skin.

    Benefits of Gardens & Nature are not feel good unicorns emitting fairy dust on us, too much science the past few years, proving what Gardens & Nature are doing to/for us.

    Science proves plants communicate with each other. And, us.

    No matter the source of the Gardening & Nature ‘awakening’, always a joy.

    Garden & Be Well, T

  4. Our local jail is nothing like Rikers Island but we are glad to have a program with the local community college that teaches about working with plants. The produce from the garden goes to the jail kitchen. It has proved beneficial for many years now.

  5. If more jails implemented programs like this, I think prisoner reform would actually be a thing, and recidivism would even drop. Having to take care of plants can be stressful, but also very rewarding, as I am sure you all know! I think anyone can appreciate gardening, especially those who think that they wouldnt enjoy it. It is also something that prisoners can take with them wherever they go, once they leave the prison and enter society.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here