HMP Rye Hill & Gartree

A small number of community growers are now working with prisons, often helping inmates with cultivating land inside the prison walls. These activities are used for their therapeutic effect, as well as building skills, fitness and social skills.

HMP Rye Hill

Master Gardeners support the personal development of substance-misuse prisoners by creating a shared growing space. This exciting innovation has a dedicated co-ordinator with a practical role as follows:

  • Train and support 10-12 specialist staff Master Gardeners to lead onsite horticultural and coaching sessions.
  • Manage the design and construction of a 55 x 35m growing space where prisoners earn levels of attainment and recognition.
  • Monitor, evaluate, and promote achievements of the garden and prisoner attainment.

The approach is core to a new, full time schedule of targeted ‘interventions’ for a rolling pool of 78 open-file prisoners working towards a life of employment opportunities free of re-offending.

There are exciting ideas from prisoners, staff, and partners.  Growing Together partnership organisation Garden Organic launched this project in spring 2013. 

HMP Gartree

This is a category B high security prison on the outskirts of Market Harborough. The learning and skills officer approached the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (FCFCG), because they have large amounts of unused land, a yard with about 20 chickens and a 150 foot greenhouse which are all not being used.

There are around 700 prisoners on this site who are all in for long sentences (typically 15 years) and there are about 50 older prisoners who have recently been re-housed in alternative cells on the site to accommodate their specific needs.

FCFCG has been working with the prison and linking them up with a larger Communities Living Sustainably project run by the Rural Communities Council and Transition Harborough. 

Part of their 5 year project involves setting up community growing sites and a food hub. We are currently enabling the prison to work with their wider community. Volunteers from the community will be going into the prison and working with prisoners on their gardens on a regular basis.

Vegetables grown on the site will go into the food hub and plants started at the prison will be used in the community as well as sold to the community and will enable the local housing association to obtain plants for use on their community gardens.

At the time of writing the project was in its fledgling stage with a launch date of Spring 2014.

Additional Information on community growing and prisons 

The Eden project in Cornwall began a project around the simple proposition that prisoners growing food an inside prison has a marked benefit on health, behaviour and outlook.

They reinforced that idea by working with Cisco to provide learning in prisons (in horticulture, enterprise, life skills, and computing) and a network of social businesses outside the walls to offer extended learning opportunities and jobs.

The programme started as a simple prison gardening project in the disused exercise yards of the resettlement wing at Dartmoor Prison. In an exceptionally bleak environment Eden (in partnership with the prison and other supporters), has created fruit, vegetable and healing gardens; produce grown is delivered to local people and schools in Princetown, itself a marginalized and deprived community.

Now extended to a number of other prisons, the programme has become less about a simple prison activity and more of a community enterprise, concerned with resilience and prosperity.

In partnership with the Cisco-supported Prisons ICT Academy (PICTA), a blended learning programme is being developed, to enable prisoners not only to grow, nurture and harvest food, but to support a range of associated life skills useful on leaving prison.