Philadelphia, PA — Philadelphia’s prison system fights recidivism with butternut squash. While over-incarceration does nothing to make America safer, at least one state is working to make sure that inmates learn a skill that has been proven to keep them from returning to prison – organic farming.
Even the setting of the small prison farm is an odd juxtaposition to the concrete block and barbed wire image conjured by most penitentiaries. Though once a construction site, a three-acre farm replete with a winding creek with tributaries that empty into the Delaware river, fruit trees, and honey bees pollinating bushes, this is the place where inmates from a nearby minimum security prison spend much of their day learning new skills.
This season, the prison workers are pulling 753 winter squash from the ground, but they will also grow watermelon, peaches, eggplant, and figs. As part of the Washington State Department of Corrections’ Sustainability in Prisons Project they’ve become part of a more sustainable future for the earth, but for themselves, too.