State prisons across the country are focusing on ways to improve and reform the correctional experience, both for the benefit of the prison population and the community around each facility. Building greenhouses may sound like an unusual way to improve a prison's entire operating plan, but there's plenty of evidence building up that each greenhouse project offers multiple benefits to the facility hosting it. There's more than just therapeutic or vocational value in a crop growing program. State and federal prisons that have established these kinds of systems have reported all of the following positive results and more.
Internal Food Supply
First, an on-site farm or greenhouse is obviously a convenient and affordable source of fresh produce for the prisoners and workers. Many prisons include little to no fresh vegetables and fruits in their dietary programs simply due to the cost and difficulty of handling volumes of perishable foods. Having a productive source of fresh food on-site increases the nutritional value of the dietary program. Growing food on-site, including meat in facilities large enough for livestock programs, can reduce costs substantially for large prisons.
Aside from growing edible crops, many state prison greenhouse programs focus on valuable ornamentals and houseplants that can produce a profit when sold locally or in bulk. With private prisons in particular needing robust income sources to balance out the costs of facility operations and maintenance, income producing greenhouses can go a long way in satisfying local markets. Greenhouses built for this purpose should be multi-functional so the program can switch between different types of production with ease. Income-producing greenhouses may need to be used for hardy perennials one year and tender annuals the next, so designing them where it's easy to adjust temperature and light levels is a smart move.
Adding any productive activity to a prison's environment is generally a good idea, and gardening is a particularly beneficial choice since it requires both physical and mental focus. Psychological studies of prisoners in facilities with greenhouse or gardening programs report higher self-esteem and lower levels of depression and aggressive feelings, which is backed up by lower levels of recividism upon release. As with therapy animal and many art-based programs, the chance to focus on something small and delicate like a growing plant has many psychological and emotional benefits for prisoners. These kinds of programs are often combined to maximize their benefits in prisons highly focused on therapeutical attempts to prevent recividism.
Another component to lowering recividism rates is training prisoners in valuable career skills before they're released. As the need for skilled greenhouse labor grows, it's an obvious choice for work training in any kind of carceral facility. Juvenile offenders can benefit just as much from training in a growing field as adults. Many green prison programs specifically reward participants with certificates in horticulture after a certain level of training is achieved so they're ready to enter the job market as soon as possible. To make this most of this kind of program, build a full-scale greenhouse facility with multiple types of propagation and crop management so your prisoners can build the widest set of skills possible. This is one of the major benefits over an open field farm, which offers a more limited set of skill-building activities.
The community around the prison or facility can also benefit from the greenhouse growing program. Selling bedding flowers and garden starts in the spring at a low cost can help residents grow their own foods or spend less on landscaping while still providing an income source. If there's no need for the prison to generate income, plants and food grown in the greenhouse system can be donated to community projects instead. Supplying all the blooming annuals needed for a roadway beautification project is a great way to give back to the community without requiring more than a basic greenhouse setup.
Whether you're interested in starting with a single greenhouse as a pilot program or need to expand an existing system with new structures, BTL Liners is here to help. Our durable and high-strength greenhouse films and covers are ideal for state prisons where there's little budget or equipment for constant maintenance on the structures. We make it easy to build greenhouses quickly and affordably so programs like these can continue to grow.