The United Nations has declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) stating that it is ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development’.


In an unusual move, WEPHREN, is celebrating this too! This is not just because we recognise that people’s health is closely linked to the health of the planet but because we want to highlight an innovative programme, Greener On the Outside for Prisons (GOOP)


Below, Dr Michelle Baybutt from the University of Central Lancashire provides an outline of the evidence on horticulture in orison settings and its benefits. She also launches a call for the international community to join this work.


Horticulture and Prison Settings

A growing body of evidence highlights the positive contribution of green space and nature for physical and mental health[1[2[3]. Prison-based horticultural programmes and settings offer multiple benefits – relating to skills-development, behaviour and self-esteem[4]; and therapeutic and aesthetic respite from the wider prison, offering safe, healing places that contribute to prisoners’ survival strategies and allow staff relief from harsh workplace environments[5[6].


Established in 2008, Greener on the Outside of Prisons (GOOP) is a ‘whole system’ programme of therapeutic horticulture and conservation work, currently operating in all public sector prisons in the North West of England. Informed by research demonstrating wide-ranging therapeutic benefits of contact with nature[7[8], it provides a coherent, holistic and joined-up approach to improving the health, wellbeing and life chances of prisoners and other key prison stakeholders. It delivers a range of integrated strategic initiatives focused on improving wellbeing and quality of life, reducing health inequalities while impacting on resettlement and the drive to reduce re-offending. It has built capacity, adding value to existing provision and developing new capacity where it did not exist. Reflecting guidance from the National Offender Management Service[9], the ‘whole system’ approach adopted to deliver the programme acknowledges that prisoners’ health cannot be addressed in isolation from the health of the general population, since there is a constant interchange between prison and the broader community.


GOOP provides opportunities for prisoners to participate in horticultural and environmentally-focused programmes that are locally determined and needs-led. Improving health through engagement with nature, GOOP has explored innovative ways to improve mental wellbeing, increase physical activity, and develop understanding of environmental issues and food growing, while enhancing prisoners’ skills and employability - designing creative new prison gardens in addition to developing and maintaining outdoor spaces in prisons; growing food, flowers and plants; and facilitating partnership delivery of NVQ accredited Levels 1 and 2 horticulture training courses. Externally, GOOP has organised contributions to landscaping and conservation in local communities by prisoners released on temporary licence (ROTL), who have, under supervision, presented their horticultural work at public events.


Working across key agendas relating to health, education and resettlement, GOOP has been effective in demonstrating the potential of horticulture not only to impact positively on mental health, physical activity and knowledge of food/healthier eating, but also to contribute to the development of key transferable skills, life competencies, specialist abilities and processes of socialisation.


Global Research Project


Do you want to become involved in an exciting new research proposal examining how horticulture programmes impact wellbeing across the globe?


A growing literature demonstrates wide-ranging health-related and societal benefits of contact with nature, alongside strong interest in using horticulture and nature-based interventions in prison settings.


We are looking to recruit international partners from universities and prisons to work on developing a research project with global impact - exploring how horticulture programmes impact on health and wellbeing in different prison contexts.


 For more information contact: Dr Michelle Baybutt


[1] Public Health England (2017). An Accord between National Parks England and Public Health England to support joint action on improving health and wellbeing through our national parks. Crown, London.

[2] Barton, J., Bragg., R., Wood, C. and Pretty, J (2016). Green exercise. Linking nature, health and well-being. Routledge, Oxon.

[3] Maller, C., Townsend, M., Pryor, A., Brown, P. and St. Leger, L. (2006). Healthy nature healthy people: ‘Contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health Promotion International, 21(1), 45-54.

[4] Flagler, J. S. (1995). The role of horticulture in training correctional youth. Horticultural Technology, 5, 185-187.

[5] Baybutt, M. and Chemlal, K. (2016). Health-promoting prisons: theory to practice. Global Health Promotion, 23(Suppl.1), 66-74.

[6] Lindemuth, A. (2007). Designing therapeutic environments for inmates and prison staff in the United States: Precedents and contemporary applications. Journal of Mediterranean Ecology, 8, 87-97.

[7] Annerstedt, M and Wahrborg, P. (2011) Nature-assisted therapy: systematic review of controlled and observational studies. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2011 Jun; 39(4): 371-88.

[8] Barton, J., Bragg, R., Wood, C. and Pretty, J. (Eds.) (2016) Green Exercise: Linking Nature, Health and Well-being. Routledge.

[9] NOMS (2015) Prison Service Instrument 13/2015: Release On Temporary Licence (PSI 13).




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