The United States incarcerates the greatest percentage of its population compared with any other nation in the world (Schmitt and Warner, 2010). Although the world average rate of incarceration is 166 individuals per 100,000, the U.S. average is 750 per 100,000 (Webb, 2009). The cost of housing a single inmate totals $31,286 annually (Carson, 2015; DeLisi, 2001), and “federal, state, and local governments spent nearly $75 billion on corrections, with the large majority [spent] on incarceration” (Schmitt et al., 2010).
Recidivism is the repetition of criminal behavior and reimprisonment (Maltz, 1984), and is one of the reasons for large inmate populations in the United States. Research tracked a total of 404,638 state prisoners across 30 states from 2005 to 2010 and found 67.8% of prisoners released reoffended within 3 years and 76.6% reoffended within 5 years of being released (Aborn, 2005; Durose et al., 2014). It was also reported that more than 36.8% (one-third) of those who recidivated were arrested within the first 6 months of being released within the 5-year study period (Durose et al., 2014).
Identifying behaviors triggering an offender’s likelihood of repeating criminal behavior can lead to potential adjustments in correcting criminal behavior, thus reducing recidivism (Broadhurst and Maller, 1991). Cohen et al. (1991) found lack of education to be a key characteristic when looking at factors that predict recidivism. Research in a study with 3000 offenders across three states found that a continuing education program reduced recidivism and cut incarceration costs by half (Lewin, 2001). Programs that promote drug rehabilitation and family services also are known to play a part in reducing recidivism (Austin and Hardyman, 2004; Inciardi et al., 1997).
Nonviolent offenders make up more than half of those who are serving time behind bars (Schmitt and Warner, 2010). With inflated prison populations, there is a growing interest in alternative means of working with those who commit crimes, especially those who are nonviolent (Mears et al., 2012). The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported 1 in every 53 adults in the United States were under some form of community service supervision (Kaeble and Bonczar, 2017). Community service is a mandate ordered by the courts to be served outside of jail or prison (Kaeble and Bonczar, 2017), and is generally issued as part of a probation sentence and as a substitution for incarceration (Kaeble and Bonczar, 2017).
As a means of education and vocational rehabilitation, horticulture programs were historically integrated into detention facilities across the United States (Rice and Remy, 1994). Many prisoners have participated in horticultural activities such as harvesting and maintaining their own vegetable gardens as a means of providing food for the institution and which can also later be a means of earning income (Lewis, 1996). Even though the work necessary to maintain the garden projects was mandatory and required by the prisons, Pudup (2007) points out the significance of such well-structured horticultural activities, and the huge role they play in influencing a self-regulating and organized lifestyle for the inmates.
A community-based horticultural program called The Green Brigade was designed specifically for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders (Cammack et al., 2002). Those participating in the program learned vocational skills while also improving their self-esteem, locus of control, interpersonal relationships, and attitudes (Cammack et al., 2002). Another program integrated the Master Gardener curriculum into a prison for adults (Polomski et al., 1997). The Master Gardener program found “offering green-industry job skills, [coupled with] successfully completing the program, offered inmates a sense of academic accomplishment and sparked their interest in horticulture” (Polomski et al., 1997).
Researchers Mohammad and Mohamed (2015) found individuals who engaged in vocational and/or educational programming had lower rates of recidivism compared with those who did not engage or enroll in programming. Participation in vocational and/or educational programs provided inmates the opportunity for learning how to read, write, and develop the skills necessary for a healthy and successful transition back into their communities and society (Mohammad and Mohamed, 2015). The likelihood of a young offender successfully transitioning into a productive member of society on release can be significantly jeopardized if he or she has never experienced any previous form of guidance, vocational development, or taken some form of a reading and writing course (Ameen and Lee, 2012). Therefore, finding a meaningful place within the workforce and community does, in fact, have an effect on an individual’s decision to participate in criminal activity (Petersilia, 2003).
Organized horticultural activities teach new skills that potentially can be applied outside of prison and in reintegrating back into society (Lindemuth, 2011; Migura et al., 1997). These skills may aid in decreasing the likelihood of reoffending while educating offenders on multiple outlooks and various approaches for analyzing their own personal perceptions of their quality of life (Migura et al., 1997). The purpose of this study was to determine the availability of opportunities for horticultural community service and whether there were differences in incidences of recurrences of offenses/recidivism of offenders completing community service in horticultural vs. nonhorticultural settings.
Aborn, R.M. 2005 Time to end recidivism. 21 Jan. 2019. <https://www.thenation.com/article/time-end-recidivism/>
Broadhurst, R.G. & Maller, R.A. 1991 Estimating the numbers of prison terms in criminal careers from one-step probabilities of recidivism J. Quant. Criminol. 7 275 290
Cammack, C., Waliczek, T.M. & Zajicek, J.M. 2001 The educational effects of a community-based horticultural program on the horticultural knowledge and environmental attitudes of juvenile offenders HortTechnology 12 77 81
Cammack, C., Waliczek, T.M. & Zajicek, J.M. 2002 The green brigade: The psychological effects of a community-based horticultural program on the self-development characteristics of juvenile offenders HortTechnology 12 82 86
Carson, E.A. 2015 Prisoners in 2014. U.S. Dept. Justice, Office Justice Programs, Bureau Justice Stat., Washington, DC
Cecil, D.K., Drapkin, D.A., MacKenzie, D.L. & Hickman, L.J. 2000 The effectiveness of adult basic education and life-skills programs in reducing recidivism: A review and assessment of the research J. Correctional Educ. 51 207 226
Cohen, M.D., Shore, M.F. & Mazade, N.A. 1991 Development of a management training program from state mental health program directors. Administration Policy Mental Health 18 247 256
Council of State Governments Justice Center 2017 Principles of recidivism reduction. 21 Jan. 2019. <https://csgjusticecenter.org/reentry/principles-of-recidivism-reduction/>
Durose, M.R., Cooper, A.D. & Synder, H.N. 2014 Recidivism of prisoners released in 30 states in 2005: Patterns from 2005-2010. Bureau Justice Stat. Spec. Rpt. ncj 244205. 21 Jan. 2019. <https://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rprts05p0510.pdf>
Inciardi, J., Martin, S. & Butzin, C.A. 1997 An effective model for prison-based treatment of drug involved offenders J. Drug Issues 27 261 278
Kaeble, D. & Bonczar, T.P. 2017 Probation and parole in the United States, 2015. 21 Jan. 2019. <https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ppus15.pdf>
Lewin, T. 2001 Inmate education is found to lower risk of new arrests. 21 Jan. 2019. <http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/16/us/inmate-education-is-found-to-lower-risk-of-newarrest.html?scp=1&sq=Inmate%20Education%20Is%20Found%20to%20Lower%20Risk%20of%20New%20Arrest&st=cse>
Latessa, E.J., Lovins, L. & Smith, P. 2010 Follow-up evaluation of Ohio’s community based correctional facility and halfway house programs – Outcome study. 21 Jan. 2019. <https://www.uc.edu/content/dam/uc/ccjr/docs/reports/project_reports/2010%20HWH%20Executive%20Summary.pdf>
Lewis, C.A. 1996 Green nature-human nature: The meaning of plants in our lives. Univ. Illinois Press, Urbana, IL
Lindemuth, A. 2011 Can prison landscape be secure, restorative, and ecologically sustainable? 21 Jan. 2019. <http://www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2011/01/can-prison-landscapes-be-secure-restorative-and-ecologically-sustainable-guest-post-by-amy-lindemuth/>
Maltz, M. 1984 Recidivism. Academic Press, Orlando, FL
Migura, M.M., Whittlesey, L.A. & Zajicek, J.M. 1997 Effects of a vocational horticulture program on the self-development of female inmates HortTechnology 7 299 304
Mohammad, H. & Mohamed, W.A. 2015 Reducing recidivism rates through vocational education and training Procedia Soc. Behav. Sci. 204 272 276
Petersilia, J. 2003 When prisoners come home: Parole and prisoner reentry. Oxford Univ. Press, New York, NY
Rice, J.S. & Remy, L.L. 1994 Evaluating horticultural therapy: The ecological context of urban jail inmates J. Home Consumer Hort. 1 203 224
Schmitt, J. & Warner, K. 2010 Ex-offenders and the labor market. 21 Jan. 2019. <http://cepr.net/documents/publications/ex-offenders-2010-11.pdf>
Schmitt, J., Warner, K. & Gupta, S. 2010 The high budgetary cost of incarceration. 21 Jan. 2019. <http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/incarceration-2010-06.pdf>
U.S. Census Bureau 2019 Quick facts, Hays County Texas. 23 May 2019. <http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045216/48209>
Webb, J. 2009 Why we must fix our prisons. 21 Jan. 2019. <https://parade.com/104227/senatorjimwebb/why-we-must-fix-our-prisons/>