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The redemptive power of gardening: Insight from a pioneer’s work with ex-offenders

The Garden Project has expanded to include a public effort to engage youth and adults in the rehabilitative benefits of horticulture. Image Credit: The Garden Project

Center for a Livable Future hosts Cathrine Sneed, founder of The Garden Project

By Katie Pearce
May 4, 2015


It all started with The Grapes of Wrath. Sneed found inspiration from the John Steinbeck classic while battling major kidney disease in 1982—a fatal case, doctors told her.

“I believe the message of book is that when people connect with land, they are hopeful,” Sneed said.

In the short time she believed she had left, Sneed—who was then working in legal services for the sheriff’s office—started a new program to put inmates to work reviving an abandoned farm on the property of the San Francisco County Jail.

Within three years, as Sneed’s disease went into remission, “the entire jail came out every day” to help plant and grow fresh vegetables, she said.

Sneed saw what she considered to be evidence of the therapeutic value of the garden, which had become a place “where someone who’s broken and hurt can heal,” she said.

But she also heard comments from inmates that troubled her, about the void awaiting them after release. “More and more people [were] asking, could they stay at the jail,” she said.

Read the complete article here.


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