A man at a prison near Rugby has spoken of how an organic gardening project has saved and transformed his life.
The project, jointly run by charity Garden Organic and HMP Rye Hill, has been extended after organisers found it had a profound effect on offenders with substance abuse problems.
James, who lost his father and his wife while serving his sentence, said: “I feel like gardening has saved my life.
“I had a lot of guilt for a lot of reasons. I was thinking about ending it all.
“For a short while, you forget you are in prison. You get to do something that gives you a big uplift.
“The project changes the way you think and feel – it’s amazing what it has done for me.”
Speaking of James’ recovery, John Noble, project co-ordinator at Garden Organic, said: “James would not be the person he is if it was not for the garden.
“Before joining the project, he wouldn’t come out of his cell or speak to anyone. It has taken a lot of time, but James has become quite the character now – he’s almost like a father figure to the rest of the guys.”
Following HMP Rye Hill’s decision to extend the project, the team is now able to support 25 prisoners to work in the organic garden area for six hours each day for a year, so they can experience the full growing cycle.
James Campbell, chief executive of Garden Organic, said: “We are extremely proud of the success of our project at HMP Rye Hill and are humbled to see how practical organic gardening, spending time outside and cooking with fresh produce is genuinely changing people’s lives.
“This is something we’re seeing not just with this project, but with our intervention work across the country – which is educating young people about organic gardening, helping carers to feel less isolated, providing opportunities for young people.
The ‘Master Gardener Project’ is one of a several Garden Organic delivers across the country to connect people with organic growing in an effort to improve people’s health and wellbeing.
These projects range from work with young carers and school children to people with mental and physical health issues and deprived communities.
The charity said it is aiming to continue to develop the project with G4S at HMP Rye Hill, supported by funding from Public Health England (Northamptonshire).
For more information, visit www.gardenorganic.org.uk