Dig Deep Farms is developing a reentry internship project that will support a transitional employment and training program for formerly incarcerated individuals in Alameda County. Social enterprise Dig Deep Farms will train formerly incarcerated people to be successful workers on small urban farms producing organic produce, specifically fruits, vegetables, and culinary and medicinal herbs. The Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League (DSAL) and Sheriff’s Office Youth & Family Services Bureau (YFSB) Behavioral Health Unit will support these formerly incarcerated people in transitioning from our training program to jobs in urban agriculture and other fields.
In Alameda County, over 11,700 individuals were in County custody (jail) or on Probation in 2017. The prospects for living-wage employment for people with prior convictions are grim: “Out of Prison & Out of Work,” a report from the Prison Policy Initiative, draws on the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Former Prisoner Survey data for 2008, the only year available. It showed that the unemployment rate for the 5 million formerly incarcerated people in the United States was 27.3%, compared to the 5.8% experienced by the general population. “Contemporary unemployment rates may differ,” authors Lucius Couloute and Daniel Kopf write, “but we are confident that formerly incarcerated people are still substantially disadvantaged compared to the general public.” (https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/outofwork.html)
The project will provide paid on-the-job training to adults with current or past criminal justice system involvement, and connect participants to a strong network of urban farms in the Bay Area. This network is unique in that it is culturally and operationally welcoming to people of color, particularly African Americans, who make up a disproportionate number of Alameda County’s inmates and individuals under Probation supervision.