Prisoners Go Out Into The Garden
Prisoners in Worcestershire will be using a show garden to illustrate both the negative and the positive aspects of a life behind bars, and the very real benefits of restorative justice programmes.
Offenders currently detained at HMP Hewell near Redditch, are creating a productive vegetable plot for this year's Malvern Autumn Show (25 & 26 September 2010).
Entitled 'Pathway to Progression', it is designed to highlight the prisoner's journey along the road to rehabilitation and shows how prison interventions are designed to help offenders resettle back into the community at the end of their sentence. At HMP Hewell these interventions include developing victim empathy and creating opportunities for prisoners to participate in reparative activities designed to repair the harms caused by offending.
The garden is one of seven edible gardens on display to 60,000 people, in the event's Good Life Pavilion. It will be judged by the Royal Horticultural Society, and recreated at the prison after the Show.
Alison Bramham-Smith, Learning & Skills Manager at HMP Hewell, who is employed by The Manchester College, has joined forces with prison farms and gardens staff, led by Jane Cale, to create the garden. They are working together to involve prisoners and staff from across the prison.
A series of inter-linking rings form the basis of the garden's design, and were inspired by the Restorative Justice Programme's Venn diagram in which victim reparation, reconciliation and offender responsibility overlap.
HMP Hewell serves the Worcestershire, West Midlands and Warwickshire catchment area and is an amalgamation of three prisons formerly on the site - Blakenhurst Brockhill and Hewell Grange - so the rings also denote a coming together of three centres.
A beehive serves as a focal point and embodies the concept of community, while the garden's natural hedgerow boundary, hosting brambles to signify barbed wire, symbolizes the prison's perimeter fence.
Garden materials are reclaimed or regenerative where possible and at the rear of the garden, there is a 'prison' gate, inscribed by art students, with the quote:
"Every adversity, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit."
The Three Sisters method of planting, made famous by native American tribes, was the starting point for the garden's planting scheme. The three sisters in question are traditionally corn, squashes or courgettes and beans.
The corn provides structure and support for the beans, the beans act as nitrogen fixer to improve the soil for the sister plants and the squashes or courgettes provide ground cover and a living mulch. This garden will use many other plants to complement the original scheme.
Different colours, shapes and sizes of foliage have been used to symbolize diversity and ethnicity, and companion planting is a metaphor for the support prisoners offer one another as each of them begins their own personal journey.
The Malvern Autumn Show takes place at the Malvern Showground in Worcestershire. There's plenty of free parking and discounts for children (under 5's free), families and groups. For tickets and/or more information, please call the Ticket Hotline on 01684 584924 or visit www.threecounties.co.uk.
For more information see: www.threecounties.co.uk
Article posted on 27 Jul 2010.