Inmates going 'green'

Program calls for prisoners to tend 1,100 seedlings

November 20, 2008|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,

It wasn't the typical scene on the grounds of a state prison.

Inmates in matching blue outfits and hats, alongside the governor, bent over in a muddy field to plant hundreds of seedlings behind the barbed wire-lined fencing of a maximum-security prison.

But with the help of those couple of dozen inmates - and the seedlings - Howard County will be turning a little greener.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Howard County section of The Baltimore Sun on Thursday included an incorrect figure for the cost of seedlings planted by Patuxent Institution inmates as part of a state program that provides trees for environmentally sensitive areas. The cost of the seedlings was $350.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

Officials announced last week a new initiative that calls for inmates at Patuxent Institution in Jessup to tend to 1,100 seedlings until they mature into trees that will be replanted at local parks.

"It's definitely good for the community and good for ourselves," said Charlie Davis, 27, a Patuxent Institution inmate working on the project. "It's good to see that things are being done for the community."

The county paid $350,000 for the seedlings, which were planted Friday in a field on prison property. The inmates will care for them for about three years and then plant them in environmentally sensitive areas. Potential sites for the trees include Troy Hill and Rockburn Branch parks in Elkridge and Cedar Villa Heights Park in Jessup.

The county has in place a Forest Conservation Project, and more than 70,000 trees have been planted in the county during the past decade, said County Executive Ken Ulman, who could not resist a pun on the word CONservation in referring to the prison project.

"In these tough economic times, government must work smarter and more efficiently than ever," Ulman said in a statement. "This program does just that: State and local governments are working together, using existing resources to protect the environment."

Although the new tree program is the first of its kind in Howard County, Maryland inmates have contributed to other environmental programs, said Gary Maynard, secretary of the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Inmates at various correctional facilities planted 14,000 trees in the spring and will plant 40,000 this fall, he said.

"It gives them an opportunity to give back to the community that they took something from," Maynard said, referring to the programs as a type of "restorative justice."

Inmates also have worked on building oyster cages as part of the Marylanders Grow Oysters Project, Maynard said. Private citizens help cultivate the oysters, which are later placed in an oyster sanctuary where harvesting is barred.

"The actions that we choose to undertake ... do in fact make a difference for our future," O'Malley said.

The efforts are part of a new O'Malley initiative called Maryland: Smart, Green and Growing, a multiagency program.

seedling species

400: loblolly pine

300: white pine

400: Virginia pine

Source: Howard County government

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