Tree Talk The Focus Of Short Course For State Prison Inmates

Nov 1, 2018

Rockview prison inmates who are participating in the new arboriculture short course, being taught in collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, learned about tree pruning in October 2018 at the Rockview Prison Camp in Centre County.
Credit Anne Danahy / WPSU

On a recent day at the forestry camp at Rockview state prison, the focus was on tree pruning. Devin Ashe and other students took turns working on an oak tree.

“I didn’t know trees were as complex as they were, what they do for the environment, wildlife as well as humans,” Ashe said.

Ashe is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview, and he's one of 13 participants in the new arboriculture short course the Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Department of Corrections are offering. Along with training inmates at Rockview Forestry Camp, the program could serve as a model for other programs around the state.

The State Correctional Institution at Rockview in Centre County has about 2,500 acres that’s forested, along with a nursery. That made it a good fit for the state’s new arboriculture short course for inmates.

The course is in its second year.

Ashe plans to continue that type of work after he’s released from prison. The hope is other inmates who receive training will too.

Pennsylvania State Forester Ellen Shultzabarger and Wade Renninger, forest and nursery manager at the Rockview state prison, talked during a tour of the Forestry Camp in October 2018. The tour included learning about the new arboriculture course, which provides inmates training in tree care.
Credit Anne Danahy / WPSU

Pennsylvania state forester Ellen Shultzabarger, says there’s a demand for people trained in tree planting and care.

“They end up with a higher level of training after the short course, and then the work and experience here at the camp will give them that edge in applying to positions in this field,” she said.

Topics in the course including tree biology, disease and pest control, tree climbing and pruning. The program includes experts from the Bureau of Forestry, county extension and Penn State.