Jeff Anderson speaking to an inmate partaking in the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility gardening program.
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A Gardening Program Helps Reduce Recidivism in a New Mexico Prison

The New Mexico State University and a group of 16 inmates in the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility formed a therapeutic garden program.

The New Mexico Correctional Facility is the only prison in southern New Mexico run by the state that has this program. The program has grown over time. Today, they have over 12 different:

  • Fruits
  • Flowers
  • Vegetables

The inmates are mentored by Jeff Anderson, a horticulture and agronomy agent for New Mexico State University (NMSU). Carleous McDaniel is one of the inmates in the first group who formed the program. He says the program has grown into an extremely beautiful thing.

At first, McDaniel and his fellow inmates were going to grow flowers. They wanted a place where prisoners could go and chill. That changed when they decided to plant crops they could eat.

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The Formation of the Therapeutic Program

According to the program’s classification officer, Sandra Lopex, the efforts to create the garden program started in 2016. Davis Wilson and Ryan Crawford, with former inmates, led the group.

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The vision for the gardening program came when Lopez addressed the GOAL (Goal, Opportunity, Accomplishment, Learning) pod facility. She discussed their lack of productiveness.

Lopez urged the prisoners to start something to keep them engaged. Wilson got inspired. He had been in two private detention units in New Mexico before. Those facilities had gardens and greenhouse programs.

Wilson believed it would work with his GOAL. He knew all they needed was:

  • Skills
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Hard work
  • Time

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These are skills are needed outside prison. The main goal of any prison is to help each inmate re-enter society and reduce the rate of recidivism.

Lopez took Wilson’s idea and pushed it up the command chain. Discussions and vetting took place before the deputy warden approved the idea.

After approval, the inmates required a mentor. They turned to NMSU for a candidate. That’s how they landed Anderson. Anderson taught the GOAL pod to inmates. He showed them simple and basic techniques and more advanced topics.

The Progress of the Garden Program

The gardening program started off with simple beds for their gardens. Today, they have at least ten above-ground beds. The beds have different types of plants that are thriving:

  • Beets
  • Squash
  • Onions
  • Jalapenos
  • Garlic
  • Asparagus
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Anderson said in a statement he is so happy, through teamwork, they have been able to do a lot in such a short time.

Jeff Anderson speaking to an inmate partaking in the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility gardening program.
Jeff Anderson (right) is responsible for making such a difference to inmates partaking in the program. Image Source: New Mexico State University News Center

The Therapeutic Garden Program Helps in Reducing Recidivism

Ashley Espinoza, the New Mexico Department of Corrections spokeswoman, indicates programs such as a therapeutic garden program, reduce recidivism rates.

According to Espinoza, 96% of the prisoners get back into society. She added the programs give inmates the necessary skills to use once outside the prison gates. These skills help them re-enter society. They also prevent them from returning to prison.

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Abigael Shem
Abigael Shem has eight years of experience in academic, content, research and creative writing, editing and proofreading. Developing any type of content is now an easy task for her. When she's not writing, she enjoys singing, dancing, hiking, traveling and sports, especially football and basketball. Abigael currently writes news for prison loved ones on Prison Rideshare Network.