Through an innovative green jobs initiative created by PHS and its partners, former inmates of the Philadelphia Prison System are finding a path to employment in local food production and landscape management.
PHS City Harvest makes fresh produce more widely available in Philadelphia’s low-income communities. With training from PHS staff, inmates of the Philadelphia Prison System grow seedlings at a prison greenhouse and receive training in gardening and basic landscaping. The seedlings are transplanted and grown by volunteers in more than 40 community gardens, as well as tended by inmates in the prison’s onsite garden. The resulting produce is donated to food cupboards throughout the city.
PHS Roots to Re-Entry maximizes the chances of future employment for inmates involved in City Harvest by providing job-skills training and placement assistance, as well as supportive services to help inmates make the transition to life outside the prison system.
Selected inmates receive 14 weeks of training, beginning with health and job preparedness workshops at the prison offered through the Federation of Neighborhood Centers: Career Support Network (CSN). They also receive training at the prison greenhouse and garden, focusing on food production and landscape management. Inmates approved for work-release then enter the hands-on landscaping phase at multiple locations, including three historic public gardens: Bartram’s Garden, Awbury Arboretum, and Friends Hospital. This phase of the program provides intensive job training in landscaping and horticulture with a focus on landscape management. Participants gain skills that will prepare them for entry-level work with local landscape management and contracting companies.
Program partners are working to create a network of employers in the landscaping industry to identify job placement opportunities for the graduates. Roots to Re-Entry’s employer partners offer a direct link to the landscaping industry for participants and, at the same time, are helping to develop a new workforce for their industry.
“Green jobs initiatives like City Harvest and Roots to Re-Entry get at the heart of the PHS mission, which is to empower people and change lives through horticulture.”
– PHS President Drew Becher