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Finding a Green Life, Behind Bars

At San Quentin State Prison, environmental outreach is based on the principle that nothing should be carelessly thrown away—especially a human life.

Photo Credit: Tom Bolema

In Marin County, California, no one is surprised that environmental awareness is taught to preschoolers. But even the most avid hybrid-driving, kitchen-scrap-composting, hemp-cloth-wearing diehard would be surprised that, a mere stone’s throw away, it is also being taught behind the grim walls of one the country’s most famous prisons.The Green Life at San Quentin—which organizers describe as the only program of its kind in the country—is slowly, quietly launching its own kind of green revolution, thanks to some dedicated volunteers who believe that every inmate can benefit from learning about both global and personal ecology. “We talk a lot about the concept of connection: to each other, to self, and then reconnecting to the environment,” says Pandora Thomas, coleader of the program. “These men are inspiring in their ability to grasp this, despite their difficult surroundings.”While meeting a journalist in Berkeley, California, Thomas and her coleader, Angela Sevin, proudly show newspaper clippings—the latest being coverage of the first-ever Green Life graduation this past November. To Thomas and S …

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