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Japanese garden/koi pond project in an Oregon prison

Started by marensouders, April 16, 2015, 02:11:21 pm

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Hello, all!  I'm so happy to see a forum full of people passionate about Japanese gardens!  I don't know much about them myself, although I have always loved visiting them, including the gorgeous one here in Portland, Oregon.

I want to introduce myself as the partner of an inmate at the Oregon State Penitentiary, in Salem, who was recently elected president of the Asian Pacific Family Club at that institution.  One of his initiatives is to build a koi pond/Japanese garden within the prison walls.  As far as we know, this would be the first such garden inside a prison, anywhere in the world.  (If anyone here knows of another one, though, we would love to hear about it!)  The project has the enthusiastic endorsement of the prison's superintendent, and timeline for building of about a year and a half.  This garden project will serve multiple purposes: 1) A chance to create a place of peace and reflection for inmates and staff alike within the maximum-security prison; 2) An opportunity to bring together inmates of all races and cultures to collaborate on a meaningful project; and 3) an opportunity for many inmates to learn new skills, take ownership of something beautiful, and give them a chance to reflect on their lives and choices, taking accountability and making more constructive choices moving forward in their lives.

The men are seeking help with this project.  I have already sent them a few "how-to" books (from the Amazon link on this site--thank you!) but they would love to get some one-on-one advice from people who have expertise, since they are learning as they go, with no personal background in building anything like this.  If anyone here is interested in helping in any way (especially if you are in the Salem, Oregon area, but email or phone help could be useful too) please feel free to let me know and I can put you in contact with the club.

Thanks in advance for any help!  I will cross-post this to the "projects" section as well.



An interesting and excellent project.  I will take your message to the board of directors.

Welcome to the forums!



Maren, the board has agreed to support this project as possible.  We will make the contacts.  Thank you for your initiative in bringing this project to JGO!


Pete E.


Good luck with the project and keep us updated (with photos too) if you can.

I have been involved with several prison projects over the years from a mechanical design aspect.

One thing to keep in mind in such prison environments is that harmless every-day items in our lives that have no inherent ill-intent can be easily used in a prison setting as dangerous weapons.

Rocks, boulders, stones, bamboo sticks, pieces of plastic piping, etc. need to have special considerations in making their placement very permanent so that do not become easily removed and used for other purposes.



Good to hear.  When JGO pursued this, the prison administration declined due to safety concerns.  But now there is a Japanese garden where a Japanese garden is most needed!

Pete E.

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