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Green Re-entry Opportunities (GRO)Community Gardens

Jun 03, 2014

In 2006, federal authorities raided a medical marijuana grow operation in which I was involved, Two years later I received a mandatory minimum sentenced of 60 months in Federal prison ; I served more than four years in federal prison before being released to a halfway house in Marion in late 2011. I left the halfway house May 19 2012 five months later after 53 months in federal custody. Left with next to nothing I began attending the Employment Skills School offered by Lutheran Social Services of Illinois’ (LSSI’s) Prisoner and Family Ministry (PFM) and met another man, Ernest Hale, himself a former prisoner had gone through PFM’s Reentry Services program for returning citizens to head up its Green Reentry Opportunities (GRO) program, During his presentation to ESS on the GRO program I learned that the inspiration for the GRO programs community gardens springs from principles of restorative justice aimed at helping former prisoners restore their lives and place in society while making meaningful contributions to the world around them. Restorative justice projects allow returning citizens to make amends for their past through constructive, progressive acts rather than through mere punishment for the past. The opportunity was ideal for me. “Once I started volunteering, I just wanted to give back to society,”. “I enjoy serving people. It’s better to serve people than to be served.” Now, less than two years later, I am back in the garden as the GRO Coordinator.

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