Effective use of work release time for individuals incarcerated by the criminal justice system can provide a great return on investment for society. When a prisoner has the opportunity to use his or her skills to produce a good or a service for the public, it ensures that taxpayer’s money is invested wisely. The local community benefits and the incarcerated individual gains an opportunity to learn a skill and feel productive in the community.
Due to the extraordinary benefits a work release program can provide, Community Action of Orleans and Genesee, Inc. reached out to a local prison facility to make efficient use of their land and work release time. Through this collaboration, inmates plant, weed, and harvest vegetables and fruits with facility staff. They distribute these fruits and vegetables to the CAA, the Nutrifare nutrition program, and the Community Kitchen. These local organizations in turn provide low-income families with both raw and prepared food.
Additionally, work release inmates teach consumers to prepare healthy meals using selected vegetables from the Facility Garden Project. The Facility Garden Project positively impacted low-income families and partner agencies in all of Orleans County and parts of Genesee County. At least 800 individuals received vegetables and some received cooking instructions and recipes.
In FY 2010, agencies across the service area helped distribute more than 3,000 pounds of over a dozen assorted vegetables to disabled seniors, soup kitchen customers, emergency food customers, and low-income families in general. Soup kitchens and Nutrifare sites also used the vegetables to prepare meals.
This innovative partnership created a productive relationship with the local prison system, which yields positive results for the prisons, community agencies, and low-income residents. CSBG funds were essential in creating this productive collaboration by funding project planners, staff who distributed the food to consumers, storage space for the vegetables, and space for cooking classes.
- U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2007 American Community Survey (accessed May 2011). Data came from the following tables: Statewide poverty percentages, GCT1701, Ratio of income to poverty level, C17002
- U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2009 American Community Survey (accessed May 2011). Data came from the following tables: Statewide poverty percentages, GCT1701, Ratio of income to poverty level, C17002
- Half in Ten analysis of Table 1, 2007 State Expenditure Report, National Association of State Budget Officers.
- Half in Ten analysis of Table 1, 2009 State Expenditure Report, National Association of State Budget Officers.
- Center for American Progress analysis of CEPR Current Population Survey ORG data.
- Food Research and Action Center.