SAN QUENTIN, Calif. — Last week, more than 200 prisoners at California’s notorious San Quentin State Prison turned out for a “green jobs” fair. The soon-to-be-released felons were greeted by representatives from several nonprofit groups and training programs, all offering advice and information about the ecologically friendly employment opportunities that supposedly await the men beyond the prison’s gates.
The event was sponsored by the California Reentry Program, a social service agency that works with prisoners who are about to re-enter the outside world. While we applaud those who are attempting to assist such convicts, this skeptic believes that teasing these men with environmentally sustainable career options is pure folly.
One of the more prominent eco-orgs present at the jobs fair was Planting Justice. According to their pamphlets, this Oakland-based group is dedicated to “food justice, economic justice, and sustainable local food systems.
By the way, if “food justice” is an unfamiliar term, let me be the first to inform you that it has nothing to do with the carrot stick saying to the potato chip, “It’s not fair that people like you more than they like me.” Advocates of food justice believe the wealthy have access to healthier food choices than do the poor. The way to solve it, they believe, is through shakedown operations that result in a redistribution of wealth (a.k.a. tax the rich and create welfare programs).
The inmates of San Quentin also took part in psychobabble discussion groups. An examination of the topics presented included growing your own food will save money; watching plants grow will develop patience; gardening will teach tolerance toward plants and people; and another that literally promised, “smelling the plants changes behavior.”
Hmm. My guess is smoking certain smelly plants was at least in part responsible for the behavior changes that initially got some of these guys traveling down the wrong road.
Another group present at the green jobs fair was the Insight Garden Program. Located in San Francisco, this group contends that when the prisoners are “working in an organic flower garden [they] also become ecologically literate – developing an awareness of their connection to and impact on the world around them.”
The way utopian-minded non-profits like Planting Justice and Insight Garden Program see the world is, if we’ll just give an ex-con a bag of vegetable seeds upon release, he’ll grow his own food, save money, be more patient and tolerant, his overall behavior will forever be altered, and his criminal ways will be a distant image in the rearview mirror of life.
If only it were so easy.
Forgive me for being cynical, but my antenna is way up. Seems to me, if anything, Planting Justice and the Insight Garden Program may be unknowingly preparing some of these prisoners to become master growers of marijuana and poppy plants.