The Francis Cope House
One Awbury Road
Philadelphia, PA 19138
PHS Prison Horticultural Skills Program: I Never Thought A Tree Could Change My Life - But It Did
03/02/12 - By Valerie Shepherd
IN A SUNNY GREENHOUSE on the northeast side of Philadelphia, about fifteen men in orange jumpsuits are hard at work. Confronted by stacks of biodegradable seed flats and bags of potting soil, they must figure out how much soil they will need to fill the flats to raise the quota of seedlings they are to deliver to 42 Philadelphia community gardens by the second week of March.
They must master not only gardening skills, but also math, teamwork, communications, good work habits – everything they will need for the life ahead, if they succeed. They are prisoners at the Northeast Facility of the Philadelphia Prison System, participating in Roots to Re-Entry, a program intended to help ready them to return to the world outside.
One of the biggest challenges for an ex-offender who’s paid his or her debt to society is staying out of prison. In Pennsylvania more than half wind up back behind bars in 5 years. Studies suggest that parolees who can find and keep a job are less likely to go back to jail, and less apt to succumb again to substance abuse. Licking this part of the problem will be a big bonus to the State of Pennsylvania, which spent $244 million in the last five years on returning inmates.
Roots to Re-Entry, says Project Manager Francis Lawn, grew out of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s City Harvest program, begun in 2006. “Inmates work with PHS staff in the prison greenhouse on State Road to grow vegetable starts – 300,000 seedlings so far – that are delivered to community gardens.” Raised to maturity, the vegetables are then shared with food cupboards for needy city residents.
The success of that endeavor inspired PHS to expand the seedling project into a vocational training program for inmates, with the help of Bartram’s Garden; the Awbury Arboretum; KJK Associates; the city of Philadelphia and its prison and legal systems.
Read the full article at Generocity
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