Select prisoners inside the compound of San Quentin State Prison can often be seen tending the 1,200 square foot organic flower garden within the medium-security yard. This is made possible by the Insight Garden Program in collaboration with San Quentin State Prison.
The Insight Garden Program also teaches inmates hands-on classes that include landscaping, gardening, planning, budgeting, design, irrigation, soil amendments seasonal garden maintenance, plant identification and plant propagation.
What do these inmates gain from this experience? They learn qualities of responsibility, discipline and a connection to the earth. They also learn to care for living plants and and can learn to “grow” themselves — personally and spiritually.
By working in nature, participants learn vocational and life skills so they can practice constructive relationships
between themselves, their communities and the natural environment and become productive members of society.
In addition, the inmates who work with the Insight Garden Program learn about ecology, the interconnectedness between man and nature. One of the philosophies of the Insight Garden Program is that inmates that work with nature can learn to cultivate a special sense of awareness where they can learn to respond to situations as opposed to reacting to them. Through this process, these inmates can learn to become more productive members of society.
The Insight Garden Program also provides reentry services with a generous grant from the East Bay Community Foundation. Inmates that leave San Quentin and the Insight Garden Program all get immediate part-time work with Planting Justice until they can secure full-time employment. Also, the reentry program provides one-on-one coaching to help the men integrate back into society.
By learning specific organic gardening vocational skills, these inmates gain self-respect, pride in their work and can develop a higher sense of functioning that can help break the cycle of recidivism. Breaking the cycle of reincarceration can help reduce financial burdens to society and turn out productive members of society from prison.