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College Group's Prison Garden Project Is a Finalist for Mountain Dew Community Grant Contest

Update 4/30/09: The Prison Garden Project was been selected a winner of the $10,000 Mountain Dew "Energize Your Community" grant. Congratulations to the 5C Criminal Justice Network!

Hoping to bring both fresh, organic food and a therapeutic, rehabilitative activity into the lives of incarcerated women, the 5C Criminal Justice Network is helping to create an organic garden at the California Institute for Women in Corona. The project was initially funded by a $10,000 Strauss Grant, but now the group is seeking additional funding in an unusual way: They’re finalists in the Mountain Dew “Energize Your Community” contest.

The garden project is one of 10 finalists selected from around 100 entries. Via online voting, five of the 10 will be selected to receive a $10,000 grant. You can view their video and vote through April 29 at

The Criminal Justice Network was founded five years ago by several Scripps students, meets weekly and has a membership of 12-20 students. The group is committed to raising awareness about prison-related issues through film screenings, information campaigns and collaborative efforts with community organizations.

“The 5C Criminal Justice Network is dedicated to maintaining a relationship with CIW, as well as promoting awareness of criminal justice on campus,” says Samantha Meyer ’10, an EA major who is in charge of construction on the garden project.

“I believe it’s really important for student to not just learn but to use what they learn to change the world for the better. We often get trapped in the Pomona bubble, and do not realize what is going on around us. This project has been a great opportunity to get off campus, realize what is going on around Pomona, and do something.”

The group has already built a relationship with the women at CIW and secured permission and space for the garden. They’ve sponsored events where students are able to go to the prison to spend an afternoon or evening with a group of women. However, these were brief visits, and the group hopes that the garden will provide a more sustainable opportunity to build relationships, in addition to its other benefits like healthy organic produce, an environmentally friendly and sustainable food source, and therapeutic activity for the women in the prison.

The project is in its second phase now. The first addressed securing initial funding, working with the administration at the CIW to select a garden site and ensure access to supplies on the grounds, and community outreach for donations and volunteers. The current second stage is planting and preparation. The third phase will involve scaling up the level of production to produce enough food to be used frequently in the kitchen.

Currently, Meyer is the only Pomona student involved with the project, but she’s hoping that will change next year. “It took a long time to get the project off the ground, but now that it is going, we are planning to get more Pomona students involved. It takes a while to get cleared to go into the prison, so we aren’t able to do that this year with so little time left.”