Green Streets in South Tucson

Green Streets in South Tucson

Friday, March 30, 2018

Green Streets in South Tucson was a partnership among Tucson Clean and Beautiful (TC&B), the City of South Tucson and the University of Arizona Garden Kitchen. The 2017 Haury Program seed grant helped the team establish training for adults incarcerated in Pima County while greening four main streets in the City of South Tucson under the leadership of Katie Gannon of TC&B.

With Santa Rita Landscaping as part of the team, they created a reentry program that bridged the transition from those inside the prison who are integrating into the community. The team established trust and consistency working with individuals to establish goals and objectives, and assist them in achieving milestones while they are still incarcerated. Upon release Gannon and her team remained in a supportive role, enabling them to feel connected and valued within a new community. Simultaneously, they worked with multiple partners across various sectors to incrementally change beliefs and practices, build political buy-in, reduce stigma, and develop a wide network of community partners working on reentry and former felons.

The project brought fifteen different community programs and organizations from the Tucson area to teach and connect with the inmates.  Partners explored the complex connections between recidivism, training and employment while simultaneously greening the environments of communities highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and urban heat islands. Working with four distinct cohorts of individuals with past felony convictions, the team built cross-sector partnerships that spanned the local, county and state penal justice systems, various departments of three jurisdictions, and a wide array of community-based organizations.

Additional outcomes included the inventoried, assessment, and mapping of three linear miles of street trees. 63 adults were engaged in hands-on training in gardening, water harvesting, and landscape care. The team planned, installed and established a fully functional vegetable/herb/flower garden. Two trees were planted within the Whetstone Unit of the Arizona State Prison Complex in Tucson. Twenty-two inmates were engaged in landscape and sustainability topics including modules to improve literacy in the environment, personal health, financial skills, and parenting. In addition, employability skills such as collaboration, communication, and critical thinking were developed. Lastly, this project engaged seven formerly incarcerated individuals in temporary and transitional landscape-related employment opportunities.

An inmate involved in the project explained,

"Besides the vocational and nutritional lessons I've learned, you've made me feel valued and confident that I will live a life of purpose once I return to the community. I feel as long as I'm a steady, hard worker, there are people in the community willing to give me an opportunity. I want everybody to understand that people in prison can be productive and inspiring members of society if given the opportunity. There should be more opportunities to volunteer for community projects while incarcerated, this would help individuals feel a part of something greater, outside of themselves, and help with the reentry adjustment."

Gannon expressed her commitment to the program by stating,

“The Haury Program is essential, especially in a time of national disinvestment in social, environmental, and economic justice. This work simply could not have happened without the Haury Program support.”

The specific project completed in one year but the network of community organizations invested in improving the re-entry process of those formerly incarcerated is established and continuing. Each member has deepened the capacity of their individual organizations to include formerly incarcerated in their social and environmental programs. They will continue to share the model of their program, including best practices and lessons learned, in the wider community especially with the help of a Pima County Community Development Block Grant to continue their work.

For more information:

Tucson Clean and Beautiful

The Garden Kitchen