Greening Programs to Facilitate Prisoner Reentry (Khatib, Krasny, 2015)

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How to successfully integrate individuals into society following incarceration is a critical issue facing the U.S. To address this issue, prisons throughout the country have partnered with local educators, environmental organizations, and outdoor facilities to offer programs for inmates that link environmental stewardship with vocational training and education. In addition, many greening programs exist to support inmates as they reenter society, through connecting ex-offenders with environmental restoration projects, while providing services such as ongoing vocational support, employment connections, and treatment for substance abuse.

Based on a review of the relevant prison studies literature and of programs in place in the U.S., we present the steps that are being taken to reduce barriers to reentry by means of environmental stewardship work. First, we outline the issue of reentry and the suggested models for successful reentry programs. Next we discuss green jobs and their relevance to former prisoners. The psychological, community, and economic benefits of direct exposure to nature—or what is referred to as therapeutic horticulture—are then examined, both for the prisoners and for the communities that profit from the former prisoners’ contributions. Finally, we present short descriptions of some of the larger U.S. greening programs for prisoners that have successfully garnered support from the local community, enrolled significant numbers of participants, and prepared inmates for employment stability following release. While recognizing that a wealth of prison green jobs programs address other issues like green construction and energy, we focused on only those programs that include a hands-on experience caring for nature. We also recognize that there are a growing number of greening programs initiated by former prisoners that did not turn up in our search. Compiling descriptions of these important programs, which are not as well represented in the literature and on the internet, is a subject for future work in this area.

 

Greening Programs to Facilitate Prisoner Reentry
Dina Khatib, Cornell Class of 2015
Marianne E Krasny, Professor
Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab
February 1, 2015

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