Life on Planet Earth revolves around Plants. From the many researches especially in the recent decades, it has been proven that Plants not only fulfil the physical needs of humanity but Plants also directly or indirectly influence every other dimension of life – from boosting the learning capacity of humans, improving the immune system, enhancing the overall wellbeing, to sharing millions of years of wisdom of evolution.
Now the researchers are showing the power of Plants in lowering the levels of violence and self-harm in prisons. A group of researchers from the University of Birmingham and Utrecht University published a study in February 2021, where they mapped the percentage of green space, for example – lawns, shrubbery, and Trees within prisons in England and Wales and correlated with incidents of self-harm, violence between prisoners, and prisoner assaults on staffs. According to Professor Dominique Moran of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Birmingham Institute for Forest Research, University of Birmingham, and the study’s lead author, the collected evidence shows clear and conclusive verifiable benefits from the presence of green space for prisoners in all categories of prison.
Taking account of variables such as the age of prisons, prisons’ security level, population density within, and whether they accommodated men, women or young offenders, the research team found prisons with a higher presence of green space had lower levels of assaults on staff and between prisoners, and lower levels of self-harm.
The number of prisoners in England and Wales put on suicide or self-harm watch has risen by nearly 60% in a decade, with further rises during the coronavirus crisis. There were more than 61,000 incidents of self-harm in English and Welsh prisons in the year up to September, 2019, alongside 33,000 incidents of violence between prisoners and more than 10,000 assaults on staff. The study’s authors suggest a modest 10% increase in green space inside a prison could reduce prisoner-on-prisoner assaults by 6.6%, with assaults on staff falling by 3.2% and self-harm 3.5%. According to the lead author, the study provides clear indication that green space should be an integral part of any prison system, and existing prisons should include existing outdoor areas to provide more green space wherever possible. The research has been shared with the Ministry of Justice, which is directing over a crisis on rising levels of violence and disorder inside prisons after years of funding cuts.
The study is important because it demonstrates that the beneficial effects of having contact with nature, which has already been recognised in other institutional contexts such as schools hospitals and now are also to be found in prisons. Previously researchers have demonstrated the benefits of gardening and vegetable-growing projects in prisons; even in a different study, the lead author showed that outdoor green space and photographic images of the natural environment that took up a whole wall led prisoners to report therapeutic feelings of calm and the ability to reflect.
This series of research results suggest the significance of getting in touch with the green of Plants in human life. Though it may seem subtle, this subtleness profoundly impacts the state of wellness of human beings and all of humanity, indicating that green space should be more integrated in modern urbanism.
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