America’s prison population is declining. This can not only be attributed to the easing of drug laws across the country, but also to rising standards of living in previously poorer states.
The gradual closure of prisons in the United States has also sparked a boom in creativity in the form of redesigning old correctional facilities for other purposes.
Associated Press reports that Connecticut’s inmate population has roughly halved from its peak of 20,000 in 2008, and that while a former prison now holds only important documents for banks and law firms, others remain empty but unused.
Here are some new uses for American prisons.
Gainesville and Alachua counties have a new homeless shelter, which is located within the converted Gainesville Correctional Institute. Closed due to budget cuts, locals found the ideal building to turn into a homeless shelter and went straight to work planting trees and painting the walls in bright colors.
The existing infrastructure, such as an industrial-size kitchen and plumbing, was already there, saving the organization money. Since 2009, GRACE Marketplace It has served three-quarters of a million meals, seen 1,500 residents relocate, and cared for more than 15,000 homeless people in the area, while reducing chronic homelessness by 38%.
While they offer health care, financial, mental health and domestic abuse services, they also have a garden, a computer lab, and offer cooking classes and even yoga.
“We are the only homeless shelter in the universe that improved property values when we moved in,” said Jon DeCarmine, CEO of GRACE. AP. “There were adaptations that were necessary for it to be something that worked. But overall, the benefits to the community and the people we serve have far outweighed any hassle of moving into a facility that had been used in a different way previously. “
In 2020, GNN reported on the “shift” of North Carolina correctional facilities into an area where at-risk youth and veterans were raising crime rates to worrying levels.
By turning old jails into year-round agricultural and educational centers, Growing Change solves several problems at once. The program synergistically brings together young men on the fringes of the criminal justice system and injured veterans without work returning from deployment.
Recruit the discipline and leadership skills of the latter to teach and guide the former. Growing change creates an environment where at-risk youth in need of long hours of community service can learn life skills, sustainable agricultural practices, and animal husbandry, with the opportunity for clinical therapy in a setting much more suitable for young men .
Meanwhile, veterans work toward college degrees in environmental science and sustainable agriculture. Together, these individuals, young and old who may have been on the fringes of society, work to rehabilitate brownfields (land that could be contaminated and must be cleaned up before future use) and to keep the prison property in shambles. .
The myriad social benefits are augmented by the fact that the counties in which Growing Change operates grow almost none of their own produce. Converting prisons to organic farms also increases access to nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.
Orange is the new black
A prison, a former correctional facility on Staten Island, has actually been converted into a full-service film studio by Broadway stages. The 69-acre waterfront campus has already seen action in Hollywood and was used in the filming of the Netflix series. Orange is the new blackand the heist movie Ocean eight.
The true prison setting includes everything a director or screenwriter could wish for; a gymnasium, visitor center, admission buildings, infirmary, kitchen, recreation yard, watchtowers, and all housing blocks.
The facility now has 40 permanent employees and each production arrives with hundreds of people.
“And to the extent that they can, [the production] they like to use local restaurants for food, local businesses for craft services, whatever they need, ”said Samara Schaum, spokeswoman for Broadway Stages. “That is part of the identity of Broadway Stages. I know it has had a positive impact on local businesses there. “
Just as an inmate one day has to prepare for life beyond the walls of a penitentiary, America is gradually getting used to life beyond the days when the simplest answer to any criminal problem was to put someone in the jail.
The number of people incarcerated in US prisons and local jails fell from around 2.1 million in 2019 to 1.8 million in mid-2020, a drop of 300,000 or a decrease of 14%.
Since 2011, 22 states have closed correctional facilities, numbering 94 fewer state prisons and juvenile detention centers, and bags of creativity are needed to ensure the community reclaims these places.
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