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From Orange to Blue: How Nature Imagery Affects Inmates in the "Blue Room"

Authors:
  • National Geographic and California Academy of Sciences
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2022. Impacts of conservation activities on people who are incarcerated: a case study based on qualitative and quantitative analyses. Ecology and Society 27(3):44. https://doi. ABSTRACT. In the past two decades, conservationists and the corrections sector have implemented collaborative ecological restoration projects, creating more inclusive arenas for conservation. These venues provide people who are incarcerated with opportunities to have a positive impact on their environment, and for ecologists to communicate science and the importance of nature with people in nature-deprived environments. We provide examples of conservation programs and their associated media pieces nationwide, whose descriptions, to date, have been almost entirely anecdotal and without formal evaluation. In this study, a collaboration of ecologists and social scientists analyzed impacts on the "incarcerated citizen scientists" who participated in two conservation projects coordinated by these ecologists at the Salt Lake County Jail, Utah, using quantitative and qualitative approaches, including voluntary pre-and post-surveys. The quantitative results informed potential outcomes, but were inconclusive. However, the qualitative results revealed that a majority of the participants reported gaining knowledge about science and conservation, and that about a quarter of them reported psychological benefits from participating, such as feeling that they were able to give back to their community through the project. These results document the potential positive impacts that participation in ecological restoration projects can help promote well-being and community involvement, and to increase science knowledge from all participants. The results also reinforce the importance of collaborations between scientists who use quantitative and qualitative approaches and analytical tools, which, when combined, provide the capacity to measure, analyze, and interpret data from human participants. These considerations should be further explored with collaborations of natural scientists, social scientists, corrections staff, and people who are incarcerated as ecological restoration projects in correctional institutions become more prevalent.
Chapter
In the Foreword to Gerard Robinson and Elizabeth English Smith's Education for Liberation volume on educational initiatives in prison, Newt Gingrich and Van Jones note that educational programs “do something powerful: they give hope and dignity to the incarcerated.” The authors wholeheartedly agree and while they recognize the importance of higher education programs that confer degrees and therefore credentials out in the free world, they find that education can be broadly understood in prison in ways that greatly enhance the hope and dignity of the incarcerated. In this chapter, they explore the creation of a Japanese-style healing garden at the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP), a maximum security, 2,000-person male prison in Salem, Oregon. This prisoner-led initiative was a resounding success, despite all the odds against it, because it was animated by a philosophy of transformative justice that both prison administration and prisoners could believe in, and it embraced the need for meaningful and inclusive community partnerships.
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