Gardening As An Alternative To Juvenile Detention
In 2007 Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson joined forces with the NYRP to transform the Baisley Park Community Garden into the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson Community Garden. The space features a children’s learning garden, vegetable plots and a patio area. Recently this space has also started providing an alternative-to-detention program for troubled youths.
H.E.A.L.T.H. For Youths, a leadership and development non-profit, encourages students to give back to the community by getting them involved in different community projects. Based on this, H.E.A.L.T.H. For Youths suggested bringing some of the teens from the Queens Youth Justice Center to volunteer at the 50 Cent Garden.
The Queens Youth Justice Center provides a number of services for justice-involved young people in Queens, NY. Their work at the community garden provides youths a short-term placement where they are accountable for their actions, while offering them a new path away from justice system involvement. In this case, the garden offers a 10,983 square-foot corner lot at the edge of a residential neighborhood. Seniors living in the neighborhood oversee the garden and the rotating crops, allowing for proper care and ascetics.
With the help of the elderly locals, teens were welcome to contribute to the planting and care of the gardens. The garden acts as a calming space where the teens can escape the issues they are facing. By providing a sense of responsibility, the teens return on a regular basis to care for their portions of the garden. Knowledge, wisdom, and values are transferred among members about gardening and life itself. The teens working in this environment learn respect for their elders and gain responsibility for their actions; they must think carefully about where to plant their crops and when to water them. This space gives teens something to think about outside themselves and their life at school, home, and among friends.
Community gardens act as a way to connect people, through joint responsibility. The 50 Cent Garden offers one of the only green spaces in the neighborhood; public parks make up only 3 percent of the total acreage of the area. H.E.A.L.T.H. For Youths saw success in this program and now has programs at two other NYRP gardens: Riley-Levin Children’s Garden in Manhattan, and the Westervelt Garden in Staten Island.