Slash
California’s First Vegetable Garden Behind Bars

The Insight Garden Program has been teaching inmates at the San Quentin Prison in San Francisco, CA gardening skills since 2002. With about 40 of the...

Larissa Hayden
Larissa Hayden on March 5, 2009.

The Insight Garden Program has been teaching inmates at the San Quentin Prison in San Francisco, CA gardening skills since 2002. With about 40 of the 1,000 male prisoners enrolled, the program hopes to give inmates a vocational skill that they can later use to get a job in addition to providing them with a spiritual outlet.

The prisoners’ labor has long been utilized by San Fransisco’s Bay Area residents in the form of goods like chairs and cabinets. The prison may now export vegetables, too, as the inmates move from a small flower-and-herb garden to a vegetable garden – the first in California.

The prisoners themselves will not be able to enjoy the final product of their work, due to concerns over black market trading, the potential for hiding weapons in the garden’s soil, and the bureaucracy involved with on site consumption. Instead, the food will most likely be donated to a food band or a prisoner reentry program. The hope is that the vegetable garden will change public opinion about the San Quentin Prison.

The inmates are already enjoying the residual effects of their work. Although the prison yard is typically self segregated, the flower-and-herb garden provides a common ground where all are welcome. Prisoner Larry Levi says of the garden, “You can come here, whatever race you are, and be at peace.”

[via SanFrancisco Magazine]

Thinking...