An inspired employment initiative takes green-job training behind prison walls to help inmates find jobs in urban agriculture and the landscaping industry upon their release, and along the way, it is changing lives for the better.
The Roots To Re-Entry (R2R) job training program, conceived by the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (PHS) and its partners, does more than teach inmates of the Philadelphia Prison System the skills they need to find meaningful employment; it also teaches them invaluable life skills.
The PHS staff leads participants through a 16-week course that includes hands-on projects designed to teach them horticultural skills and provide them with training in landscape maintenance and greenhouse growing. In addition to English and math, the nonprofit Federation of Neighborhood Centers (FNC) offers supplemental courses in health education and employment preparedness.
Upon inmates’ release from prison, the FNC assists R2R graduates with the transition to life outside prison walls by helping them find employment and offering support for housing, child care and continuing education.
Recently, participants in the R2R program opened an ornamental plant nursery, and future plans for the program include the construction of a hoop house covered with solar bubble wrap to help train inmates on greenhouse construction techniques.
“The ornamental plant nursery has been a great success,” says Tim Majoros, manager of the R2R program. “It has allowed us to add nursery management and propagation to our training curriculum, along with being a great source for pollinator plants. In addition, the nursery has already made multiple plant donations to local community gardens along with a women’s halfway house in North Philadelphia where plants from the nursery were used to install perennial gardens on the grounds.”