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Gardening Program Helping Rehabilitate Juvenile Offenders

by: Devon Walsh Posted: Jun 29, 2021 / 05:16 PM CDT / Updated: Jun 29, 2021 / 10:19 PM CDT

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Many times we report on teenagers who have committed crimes in our community. However, when they go to Strickland Youth Center, the goal is not to lock them up and throw away the key. There’s a program in place, to help them make better decisions. It’s teaching some unexpected lessons outdoors.

The program revolves around gardening. Even though it’s surrounded by secure fencing, the garden is a serene space just outside the cells for the juvenile offenders. It is blossoming this time of year with many varieties of fruits and vegetables. Only inmates with good behavior are chosen to work in the garden. They live in the “good behavior” hall. They enjoy what they call a little “taste of freedom” outdoors.

Juvenile Judge, Edmond Naman, says the garden is a metaphor for what they are trying to teach at Strickland. He says it’s all about rehabilitation. “With a little love and care, we can turn your life around. They get to plant a seed, and with a little love and nurturing, they can see that bloom. That is a metaphor for what we are trying to do that for their lives,” Naman said.

Strickland has partnered with the Master Gardners of Mobile County to help teach young men and women how to garden. Carol Dorsey regularly comes to help the teenagers. She says she doesn’t ask about what crime they committed to cause them to be in custody. She focuses on positive things.

“We are here now in this moment. In that capacity, we don’t have to dwell on the past or project to the future. We are here in this moment, ” Dorsey said.

WKRG talked to several juvenile offenders. We were not allowed to show their faces. One we are calling Nate said, “I have made some wrong decisions, but this shows me there is hope,” he said.

All the produce is donated to local food pantries.

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