San Quentin inmates explore green job opportunities

San Quentin probably brings to mind Johnny Cash’s legendary performance at the prison… or perhaps a particularly creepy episode of Lockdown. But green jobs? Yep… on Saturday, the Insight Garden Program (which attempts to rehabilitate prisoners through organic gardening) and the California Reentry Program hosted a green careers fair at the prison.

Targeted to prisoners with ten years or less on their sentences, it featured sixty employers and non-profit organizations (including Van Jones’ Green for All). Job opportunities included everything from landscaping and construction work to farming opportunities. Inmates such as Erick Copeland appreciated the effort to show prisoners opportunities beyond the normal types of work available to ex-cons: “We get stuck in basic construction or food service. Those are pretty monotonous jobs. This opens things up for us. I want to farm when I get out.”

As you might imagine, the recession’s hit released prisoners particularly hard… and even when work’s available, it’s often low-paying. Thus, the opportunities present at the fair apparently created quite a positive vibe: organizer Dominique Apollon told the Oakland Tribune “I think this scene would surprise a lot of people outside, and would change a lot of minds. It would upset a lot of stereotypes as far as (the inmates’) desire, their determination to make a better life.”

Are green jobs a promising option for those leaving prison? Let us know what you think…

via Contra Costa Times


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Image credit: MicGloWal at Flickr under a Creative Commons license