Inmate participants expressed gratitude for the chance to be involved in the Insight Garden Program.

By Alyssa Spoon, Office Technician
California Medical Facility

Insight Garden Program (IGP) is celebrating 15 years of transforming incarcerated individuals into dedicated gardeners with a new introspective outlook. While gardening appears to be a simple hobby on the surface, it has become an opportunity for participants to reflect more deeply on their journeys while giving back to the neighboring community.

The first half of IGP offers a quiet time of meditation and reflection on various topics, such as family roles, relationship boundaries, and toxic friend groups. After inmate participants have had a brief time to reflect on the discussion topic, the group collectively shares how that topic has personally impacted their lives.

During discussion time, the parallel between growing a healthy garden and cultivating healthy character is frequently reiterated. Just as a nurtured seed will produce flourishing plants and fruit, a recurring pattern of behavior will shape an individual’s character.

California Medical Facility’s (CMF) IGP Program Manager Amy Boyer is dedicated to the growth and character development of program participants, perceiving the significance of a reliable support system in the process of rehabilitation. She encourages participants to initiate positive change in their own lives, leaving behind destructive thoughts and patterns of behavior which once held them captive.

Once meditation has concluded, all participants are led out to their resident IGP garden.

Each institution’s garden consists of a wide variety of flowering plants and fruit-bearing vegetation, requiring varying levels of care. Inmate participants learn to cultivate thriving garden beds, earning the opportunity to observe the fruits of their labor firsthand. In some cases, participants are even granted the privilege of enjoying a meal made from their home-grown ingredients, as was recently approved at CMF.

Additionally, IGP has created a system of planting seasonal gardens to ensure the program’s continuation throughout the year. Many inmates have expressed their gratitude for the chance to create IGP gardens, often referring to them as a sanctuary from their usual daily routine.

Insight Garden Program has not only provided inmates with a meaningful task, but has demonstrated the importance of self-awareness through the analogy of the “inner garden” and “outer garden” – the seeds we choose to cultivate within define our character.

” We don’t just build gardens,” said Boyer. “We build communities where people can grow too.”

(Some websites may not be accessible from a CDCR computer.)

For more information about the Insight Garden Program, visit http://insightgardenprogram.org/.

The program operates in eight CDCR institutions – CMF, CSP-Solano, San Quentin State Prison, Central California Women’s Facility, Folsom Women’s Facility, Avenal State Prison, California Health Care Facility and CSP-Los Angeles County, according to the organization’s website.