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.