Don’t you think the world would be a better place if everyone did a little gardening? An unexpected group is coming around to that idea—prison administrators.

The Natural Resources Defense Council‘s Smarter Cities Project reports that prisons across the country are harnessing the therapeutic powers of gardening. In Philadelphia, lucky and cooperative inmates get to tend the prison’s organic garden, which produces thousands of pounds of food that ends up in local food pantries and soup kitchens.

“Our whole garden is managed organically,” says Sharat Somashekara, city gardens coordinator for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. “We build the soil, we compost, we cover crop—we even make our own cayenne pepper spray.” Somashekara says he sees improvement in 90% of the people he works with—gardening makes them healthier in body and spirit.

This prison gardening plan sounds great to me. The inmates receive horticultural therapy and learn valuable skills, charitable organizations get organic food, and the world becomes just a little bit greener. Van Jones and Thomas Friedman have written about how investing in a green economy is good public policy. For more information on how green living can make the world a better place, check out this article on how grasscycling can save your lawn (and the world), or these 8 tips for green landscaping.

Image Credit: PHS/Margaret Funderburg