Gone are the days when college campuses and aging hippies had a virtual monopoly on dedication to the environment. Another, perhaps unexpected, segment of society has recently begun to embrace vital strategies for protecting the earth.
Prison facilities throughout the United States are increasingly showing their commitment to environmentally conscious operations by instituting a variety of recycling programs and other green initiatives largely staffed by inmates. Glass and plastic recycling, composting, organic farming and land conservation projects are just some of the ways in which prisons across the country are embracing a more earth-friendly philosophy while simultaneously providing enhanced rehabilitation opportunities and skills acquisition assistance for incarcerated individuals.
A prime example of the trend toward these environmentally responsible facilities is that of Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Washington State. Inmates there raise thousands of pounds of organic vegetables each year, turn discarded shoes into artificial turf that can be used on children’s playscapes, and compost the majority of the prison’s food waste. The green initiatives being launched at prisons nationwide also extend to clean energy projects focused on harnessing wind and solar power. The Ironwood State Prison in California recently utilized over 6,000 solar panels placed at the facility to generate energy sufficient to power over 4,000 homes for a period of 12 months.
Wind turbines have sprouted up at an Indiana prison, where wood chip powered water boilers are also in use. Prisoners in North Carolina correctional facilities have regularly been tasked with converting large food shipping containers into cisterns capable of collecting rainwater. Changing their lives and the environment for the better. Great job.
The benefits of these types of green initiatives and recycling programs can be quite substantial, given the enormous amount of resources and energy typically consumed by correctional facilities. However, the positive impact may go well beyond the achievement of lower operating costs and reductions in environmental damage. The life skills gained by inmates who participate in such initiatives and the public-spirited nature of the work in which they are engaged may ultimately help trim the number of re-offenders and encourage a greater sense of personal responsibility among prisoners upon release.