New garden behind bars | Love The Garden

New garden behind bars

Geoff Hodge's picture
By Geoff Hodge, Botanical Expert (BSc, MCIHort)

Trailblazers at Brampton Garden CentreTrailblazers logoA group of young offenders have created an inspirational and productive garden within their immediate prison grounds, with the help of Miracle-Gro composts and plant foods.

The national charity Trailblazers, with the assistance of Vicky Page, our UK Customer Services Supervisor, is supporting Therapeutic Garden Mentoring as a tool to help rehabilitation, and to provide a non-threatening focus during the last 6 months of these prisoners’ sentences. The new garden was planned by the gardening group to include decorative paths, a wildlife pond and beds for colourful flowers and tasty vegetables.

Veg growing

As part of the Garden Mentoring system, the gardeners have been encouraged to taste the vegetables they have grown and picked, with a view to broadening their dietary horizons. As a result, they have tasted climbing beans, courgettes, carrots and potatoes that have been grown with the help of plant foods and composts supplied by Scotts Miracle-Gro. Eating freshly picked food crops is sometimes a surprise to these young men, who are not usually practiced in preparing and serving food. Finding that root crops are covered in dirt and need cleaning before eating is sometimes a big shock to non-gardeners. However, on a recent catch up visit, Vicky was not surprised to find that Gardening Therapy is a useful way to encourage interest that can be useful to prisoners once their sentence is over.

Successful scheme

Even though this pilot scheme is in its first year, Trailblazers reports that the project has had some great successes. These include:

  • 100% of the young prisoners taking part have improved their behaviour elsewhere within the prison.
  • Nearly all those that have taken part in the gardening project have gone on to have a 1:1 mentor, which is an intensive mentoring programme within Trailblazers.
  • One serious self-harmer has reduced incidents of self-harm by half, through working on the project.
  • Trailblazers worked with 193 young people in prison in 2012. The national re-offending rate is 73.8% and yet Trailblazers young people have a reoffending rate of only 11%.

The summer project of creating the new garden is now coming to an end with the completion of the wildlife pond. A pond liner was bought. thanks to financial support from Frosts Garden Centre, Buckden Road, Brampton, and Scotts Miracle-Gro, and after suitable preparation to line the pond with sand, the Gardening Mentor group are now looking forward to filling the pond.

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