The United States has the largest prison population in the world. More than 2 million people are jailed. China is second with about 1.7 million.
In some U.S. prisons, inmates are not just “doing time,” as they often describe their prison sentences. Some prisoners are working to protect the environment.
Near Olympia, Washington, inmates are raising rare and endangered plants, animals and insects for release in the wild. The project began 10 years ago when a state university teamed up with the prison.
Stafford Creek prison is in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington. To enter the prison’s garden area you must go through two metal detectors. Then you have to pass through double gates with sharp wire and guarded by prison police.
In the garden, a small crew of inmates is planting flowers. The flowers will be moved after several months to wild areas around Washington’s coastline. The plants will provide food for endangered butterflies.
Prison supervisor Pat Glebe likes to see such change in inmates. He says the prison garden work reduces violence in the prison.
“It helps with the level of violence in the prison because these inmates all of a sudden have something else to do. They see the value in it. And they see the value of giving back.”