Prisoners involved in Castlerea hanging baskets initiative

  As part of a partnership initiative between Castlerea prison and local community groups in Castlerea, Roscommon County Council and Roscommon Partnership, prisoners were involved in potting and designing 180 hanging baskets for Castlerea, under the supervision of Sean Coen.             The hanging baskets have been displayed throughout Castlerea town. Funding was secured from Roscommon County Council, Roscommon Partnership, Enterprise Castlerea, Tidy Towns, Robert Flynn, The Square Castlerea, Benny O’Connell, Gerry Flanagan Construction and FÁS. The flowers are being taken care of by a member of the local FÁS scheme.             The display of is a joint effort between the community, the prisoners and staff of Castlerea Prison. For the past month a number of people have been working hard behind the scenes to bring this project to fruition. The local community hanging baskets, sourcing flowers and baskets and the prisoners supported by the staff, planting up over 180 baskets and making a large centre piece for the town.             But this is not just an effort to brighten up the environs of Castlerea; this is a project with a much greater significance. Speaking with Linda Sice from Roscommon Partnership Company she explains how it came about and why she feels it is more than just aesthetic. ‘I am involved in a number of projects in the prison which support the families of prisoners and the resettlement of prisoners back into their communities. In the course of this work I met a prisoner with an interest in horticulture, but also a huge desire to give something back to society. Through discussions with him, Willie Conlon, Industrial Manager, Castlerea Prison and Pascal Fitzmaurice from the local community we came up with the idea of the hanging basket project. We felt it would contribute in a positive way to the local community and create a link between them and the prison. It also gave the prisoners a real opportunity of contributing to the local area.’             Both the prison staff and the local community were very supportive of the idea and were very committed to delivering on the project. I asked the Governor of the prison Dan Scannell what his thoughts on the initiative were.             ‘We here in the prison are involved with a number of projects with Roscommon Partnership Company and other agencies in supporting the resettlement of prisoners back into the community as we are very committed to empowering the prisoner to be ready to take a positive role in society on release. This project gives something to the community but also gives the prisoner an opportunity of contributing positively to society. We have been involved in similar type work in the local community such as the playground in Castlerea and the nameplate in Castlehill. It’s a team effort and I always have the full support of members of my staff that are involved and the enthusiasm of the prisoners.’ Chief Noone his colleague outlined that ‘projects like this present challenges, however we are about finding solutions to challenges presented by innovative projects like this for the benefit of the community and prisoner’.             Pascal Fitzmaurice is one of the lead supporters from the community is delighted with the outcome of his hard work in this project and says it could not be done without all those involved, those mentioned above, but also local retailers, goodwill of the local community, Roscommon County Council, FAS CE Worker. Pascal is also committed in the concept of working in partnership in the delivery of other community projects he is involved in and at present is working with many groups to have an inclusive Castlerea parade this year. ‘If we did not make a real effort to include the likes of prisoners, new entrants into our communities, youth and the wider community in our local activities, what sort of society will we have?’