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A Garden Can Cultivate An Inmate

Reimagining Youth Incarceration

Sarah Maloney

David Watts

March 2021

Design that stands for unconditional compassion is powerful. Connecting people to nature is a fundamental goal of landscape architecture, which includes those who commit crime. Since youth offenders are vulnerable to entering the cycle of adult incarceration, early intervention and rehabilitation is critical.

A Garden Can Cultivate an Inmate proposes a flexible youth garden curriculum designed to teach basic horticulture skills, facilitate active participation, and build relationships inside and outside detention. Integrating therapeutic garden education into the rehabilitation practices of U.S. juvenile corrections will empower young people to build valuable skills, connect with loved ones, and escape the adult prison system.

Direct involvement with Restorative Partners, a nonprofit organization empowering those impacted by crime, has opened opportunities for implementation. Collaboration with staff, volunteers, and in-custody youth has facilitated design solutions based in reality. As COVID-19 restrictions cautiously lift, relationships between youth and community will strengthen through the shared experience of gardening.



My passion for community service, sustainability, and social justice has led me to investigate mass incarceration on conceptual and personal levels. I have always been drawn to compassionate, community-based design that provides healthy green space to all members of society. Landscape architecture can be a tool for social change through collaboration with organizations serving marginalized populations. Exploring innovative design territory excites me because I enjoy venturing outside my comfort zone and working directly with people. Outside of school, I am usually found dancing, playing piano, making art, or mastering the art of the hash brown.

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