Insights on systems thinking, pedagogy covering the basics of the program, videos from the inmates, and documented research and results—this is a must-read for those interested in the power of food production as rehabilitation and therapy, from the inside out, from the soil to the cell. This chapter is part of Beyond Prison—a large, freely accessible online volume that captures important new approaches to rehabilitation in a system that has mastered incarceration.
Over the last decade the garden program has become a fixture in San Quentin’s rehabilitation courses and has proven to be a successful measure to reduce recidivism. A 2011 tally of 117 garden program participants who were paroled between 2003 and 2009 found that less than 10% returned to prison or jail. Waitkus estimates that this saved California taxpayers around $54M. In California—the state with the most incarcerated individuals in the country—the rate of re-offense is remarkably high. Currently, there are 112,300 inmates doing time, with 13,500 released every month. But 61% of these former inmates return to prison within three years.
“The guys in the program have so many Aha! moments when they learn how growing food and creating gardens can be a solution for healing many systems: social systems, food systems and environmental systems.”