The Moss Man of Cedar Creek

With time on their hands and a desire to help, inmates learn to grow endangered forest plants.

Slow-growing mosses stripped from trees for use in the horticulture and florist trades can take decades to grow back.
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"They believe these activities will help reduce recidivism and decrease behavioral infractions," she said. "I believe it will also stimulate more good science."

Although she occasionally hears of a success story, Nadkarni says it's too soon to know whether Cedar Creek's sustainable-living projects have helped former prisoners adjust to life on the outside. She hopes to track that closely in the next phases of the project. But, "even in the short term, it was clear the men involved were deeply engaged and happy to be working with a project that exercised their intellect, improved the environment and contributed to sustainability," she said.

"The inmates saw themselves as active and valued participants in an ongoing exploration of how to solve a critical environmental problem, Nadkarni said. "They seemed to be keen to make a difference to society, and the project appeared to serve as a subtle-but-real form of redemption."