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An Oasis of Calm in the Middle of a Prison

June 27, 2011 - On June 27, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) dedicated its third prison meditation garden. This latest green space, funded by a grant from Annapolis-based TKF Foundation, is located at the medium-security Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup (MCIJ). DPSCS is the only prison agency in the nation to have TKF green spaces.

At MCIJ, TKF used professional landscape architects and inmate labor to transform a nondescript concrete passageway into an art-filled, waterfall-enhanced, multi-level green oasis. Large inmate art works are on one side, two waterfalls with differing cascades are on the other. The two-level spot features a trellis, a bench, and plenty of plants and flowers.

Warden Dayena Corcoran says staff and inmates will be able to use the spot---inmates with permission and for group work with chaplains and other correctional specialists. For both staff and inmates, it will be a welcome respite in the midst of what is otherwise a gray concrete-filled environment.

Why have such a spot inside a prison, where people go as punishment for their crimes? The space acts as a calming effect, certainly as much as drivers who are encouraged to slow down by plants and flowers in the median of a highway that’s seen a bad accident. Such spots can take some of the stress out of what is often a very tense environment. For example, they give inmates (who cannot attend loved ones’ funerals) a brief moment to “get away” in the event of a family emergency or death.

DPSCS’ first meditation garden, at Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, has a horticulture program and greenhouse, again TKF-funded. A smaller TKF green space also exists at Metropolitan Transition Center in downtown Baltimore. The gardens cost no taxpayer money.

DPSCS is grateful to TKF Foundation and proud of the job done by staff and inmates at MCIJ.