Cultivating life behind bars

Programs that combine recycling, clean energy and inmate training are worth the time it takes to watch them grow

Looking ahead to progress

   Stafford Creek Corrections Center has received quite a bit of media attention for its part in the ongoing Sustainable Prison Project. There's something about incarcerated prisoners picking fresh grown cucumbers or rehabilitating endangered frog species (a project for which neighboring Cedar Creek Corrections Center recently received a grant from the Oregon Zoo) that invites curious onlookers. In fact, it's not uncommon to find TV or news crews covering the story.

   "It does get a lot of attention," says Glebe. "Offenders know they've done bad stuff; so when they can see that what they're working on is going out there in the community, and they can show people on TV or tell their family 'I'm working on this project that's getting a lot of attention', that means something to them. It's pretty significant."

   Duffey agrees this type of experience is a boon for offender well being in and out of the cell. "Clean energy grew 2.5 times faster than any other job growth. That's where the jobs are coming from or where they're going to be. And it's not just going to be a minimum wage kind of job." Nor will a number of these jobs require an advanced degree. That's a far cry from the scantily paid, burger flipping options many will find upon their return to the outside.

   Sustainable training programs give inmates new opportunities. With them, releasees can compete in a fiercely competitive economy. They may find they are passionate about doing good for the environment, and inspire others to feel the same.

   What better way to turn over a new leaf?

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