Publication Date

Spring 2020

Committee Members

Patricia McGirr - Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning Michael Davidsohn - Member, Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning Robert Ryan - Member, Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning


The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons and jails. On average, one-third of former offenders will return to prison for re-offence within three years of their release (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2018). This cycle is known as recidivism, and demonstrates a major reflection of the criminal justice system’s failure to provide rehabilitation that meets the needs of the incarcerated population. However, horticultural therapy in prison may offer a sliver of hope. Also referred to as Green Prison Programs (GPPs), studies indicate that participants in these programs gain valuable job skills and improved emotional well-being, reducing the likelihood of former offenders returning to criminal behavior after imprisonment (Jiler 2006, Khatib & Krasny 2015, Insight Garden Program 2019). Furthermore, growing interest in the application of thoughtfully designed landscapes integrating principles in restorative environments reveals similar benefits not only to offenders, but to correctional staff and visitors (Stevens, et al. 2018). This project synthesizes current trends at the intersection of landscape architecture, restorative environments, and prison reform, and offers a series of adaptable design recommendations aimed to benefit all who experience the correctional landscape. In collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (MA DOC), the Massachusetts Correctional Institution of Framingham (MCI-F) serves as a demonstration site for the application of these recommendations at both a master plan scale and 3-acre focus area. Community engagement with MCI-F inmates and staff, coupled with analysis of case studies reveals normative design and trauma-informed design strategies as an added layer of consideration for designers. Foundational to this project is environmental justice and human dignity, which asserts the belief that despite the crimes of convicted offenders, people in jail deserve access to the benefits of spending time in nature. Although landscape architecture cannot solve the social and political issues that have led to mass incarceration in the U.S., this project demonstrates how landscape architects can play a pivotal role in helping inmates and correctional officers experience the personal and societal benefits of thoughtfully designed landscapes.