© | Michael Blann
Reducing recidivism is the main goal of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, according to Dwight Anstaett, career-technical education (CTE) director for the Ohio Central School System, Chartered in 1973, and the school district offers 11 different horticulture and turf programs to qualified inmates. Additionally, those who pass the program are all Ohio Certified Nursery Technicians (OCNT) upon completion.
“You need to know something to do something,” Anstaett said. “And that’s what we are trying to do here.”
Students in the program are typically minimum or medium security inmates looking to reach parole within five years. The students also must have at least and eighth grade reading level.
“We want to get them out there and get them jobs,” Anstaett said. “So those people who aren’t getting out any time soon, this isn’t for them.”
The curriculum in this CTE program is aligned to the OCNT because the instructors recognize how valuable a certification is when trying to get a job. The programs offered include garden center certification, core landscaper certification and grower certification.
Currently, the program has an 81 percent pass rate for the OCNT certifications, which Anstaett says is higher than the industry average. Each program has a greenhouse and actual properties to work on. Students build and maintain community gardens and high-end residences like the governor’s residence.
“This program is about actually doing it and getting your hands dirty,” Anstaett says. The prisons host job fairs regularly so the students can explore their options. The students even speak with industry professionals to get an understanding of what employers are looking for.
“We teach them employability skills,” he said. “Things like how to behave in a job interview, the importance of work ethic, things that all employees need to have.”