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PA program for inmates answers growing demand for green jobs
By bayjournal.com- Rebecca Chillrud
Published: 06/12/2019

“I don’t want to say like I’m a tree lover because, you know, we do cut trees,” said Gregory Clegg, a professional tree climber in Hampton, VA. “It’s just something that I look at differently now, you know? And I think a lot of people would, if they learned about how trees work and the science behind them and plant life, and how important our environment is, then maybe it would open their eyes a little bit more.”

Clegg didn’t learn about the science of trees in a traditional classroom. He was part of an innovative program at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview, in Bellefonte, PA, that prepares inmates for a career in tree maintenance and management.

“I really think rehabilitation can occur by getting out into nature,” said Shea Zwerver, the community engagement coordinator for TreeVitalize, a partnership-based urban forestry program under Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Motivated by interests in environmental conservation and social justice, she reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections in 2017 with the idea to provide job training in arboriculture—or tree cultivation and management—to inmates.

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