New Village Press lauds the efforts of the Save Our Prison Farms campaign, launched in response to the recently announced foreclosure of Canada’s six prison farm establishments. New Village author James Jiler, founder of the Greenhouse Project, a “jail to street” horticultural training program in New York City’s Rikers Island Jail system, has long been a leading proponent of prison horticulture as a successful model of rehabilitation for inmates. His book Doing Time in the Garden: Life Lessons through Prison Horticulture illuminates the transformative process that growing healthy meals and forming a connection to the earth can have on inmates’ lives and on the societies they re-enter. The book has been a critical reference for the Save Our Prison Farms campaign as they try to convince the Canadian government to keep the national prison horticulture program thriving.
“People are less likely to go back to prison if they come out of it with an education,” Jiler said in a recent article published in the Great Lakes Echo. “I want them to go home with a skill and find a purpose in life that is better than making license plates, and learning how to care for the earth is a huge therapeutic benefit that people need.”
Save Our Prison Farms notes that the majority of Canadians of all political stripes support this productive, cost effective, rehabilitative farm-based program and they provide a well-researched list of reasons on their blog for why the Prison Horticulture farms should remain open and available as an alternative to incarceration. For Jiller, the greatest inspiration for keeping the Prison Horticulture program alive comes from the hundreds of people he has directly kept from going back to jail through his work with American Prison Horticulture Association.
“The reality is that very few people are serving life, and they are going to be coming home,” Jiler said. “Do you want them to come home angry, bitter and unemployed, or with a change?”