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Juvenile Detention Center Offers Horticulture Training

A juvenile detention center in Otay Mesa has started a gardening program to help some of its detainees earn certificates and training in various fields.

Evening Edition

Jesse Ocampo describes it this way: "It's different. You've got the plants and it smells better around here --fresher air," he said. He's been at the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Center since July.

"I was doing bad, I was doing drugs and hanging out with my homies and everything you know. And I just ended up getting pulled over and locked up again," he said.

Ocampo has been in and out of the juvenile system since he was 13, but he said the gardening program has him thinking differently about the direction of his life. "Like my life could be a tree and if I'm feeding it bad soil then it's not going to grow, but if I put the right things in it, then I can grow as big as I want and harvest as many things as I can," said Ocampo.

Aired 3/30/12 on KPBS News.

A juvenile detention center in Otay Mesa has started a gardening program to help some of its detainees earn certificates and training in various fields.

Bill Moberly is the instructor of the gardening program. "We put faith in the young guys and let them do things. I think when people accomplish things it builds their confidence," he said.

For many of the teens this is the end of the road. Donovan State Prison right up the road is a constant reminder. Probation Supervisor Tyra Myles said the program helps the kids release the stress from being locked up and also prepares them for the future. "We've had a couple of chefs come out and they've talked to them about a career in the restaurant business and being a chef. We've had a farmer come out and talk to them about how he started his program," she said.

Jesse Ocampo hopes to get a fresh start when he's released next month just ahead of his 19th birthday. "I haven't been out for a lot of my birthdays so I'll be out for this one and I'm pretty excited," he said.

In addition to gardening, the juvenile detainees learn how to cook what they grow. And they also attend classes and learn job training skills.

Video by Katie Euphrat

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