How Justice Facilities Are Incorporating Sustainable Wellness Practices in 2024

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Justice facilities aren’t just a core part of the American justice system — they’re places that care for individuals and utilize natural resources every day. Many of those facilities are incorporating sustainable wellness practices to improve the lives of everyone within and around them.

Check out the primary ways change is happening in 2024 to understand the future of those involved with the justice system.

What Is Sustainable Wellness?

Sustainable wellness is any act or change that benefits the health of humans and the planet. Experts estimate 3.6 billion people live in areas highly affected by climate change, but the Earth’s health would improve if more individuals and organizations made green changes. There would be less pollution fueling the warming atmosphere and fewer draws on limited natural resources.

Many are already making these changes to help the Earth. They’re eating locally sourced foods to support their health with essential nutrients without funding national or international shipping that burns fossil fuels. People can help wherever they are, even within the justice system.

Why Is Sustainable Wellness Important In Justice Facilities?

Justice facilities benefit from sustainable wellness initiatives in multiple ways. The American Institute of Architects’ Academy of Architecture for Justice released a 2020 update with a long-term plan for improvements in justice facilities through 2040. The paper outlines how eco-consciousness can manage three parts of the American justice system —  the quality of life for the individuals involved, the buildings housing individuals and how the system impacts nearby communities.

Each part is a central component of how justice facilities operate. Those within each building have essential rights to healthy food, clean water and a healthy living environment. Those things become compromised when quality falls behind the drive for other financial goals. Environmental friendliness motivates people to look beyond profits and losses regardless of the facility’s size or population.

The buildings themselves can support or hinder the well-being of everyone inside them if they contain outdated materials. People may breathe particles that harm their health or consume natural resources that harm the Earth against their own sustainable standards.

Justice facilities can also create a greener path for the community. They serve as leadership examples when operated with great thought and care. Drawing green resources into the area and adopting sustainable standards could encourage others to follow in the facility’s pursuits.

Ways Justice Facilities Are Incorporating Sustainable Wellness Practices

When implemented long-term, sustainable wellness practices in justice facilities can create positive change for the three factors outlined above. These are some ways facilities are currently implementing positive changes for the planet, residents and those around them.

1. Improve Dietary Options

Food provided to people living in justice facilities can help them and the planet with a sustainable perspective. When experts surveyed individuals released from justice facilities nationwide, 94% said they never felt full after eating due to small serving sizes and poor nutritional profiles in each meal.

Facilities trying to save money cut costs in mess halls, but there’s another way to feed people. Efforts like the Harvest of the Month project in California supply justice facilities with farm-fresh foods directly from local farms that use sustainable growing practices.

Occupants get healthier food options and leadership pays less because they skip shipping fees. Meanwhile, the Earth benefits from more money going to farms with eco-friendly standards. The community also benefits from this sustainable wellness practice because working with local farms funds employers who open job positions and boost the surrounding economy.

2. Introduce More Access to Nature

Supporting the environment helps the local ecosystem thrive, but people at justice facilities also benefit. Research shows that when those living there get more time around natural elements like plants, their mental health improves compared to others who spend little to no time outside.

States like Wisconsin are pushing for laws to ensure this change happens in an enforceable way. Legislators introduced two bills to raise the minimum outdoor time per facility resident to three hours per week due to the health benefits of nature exposure. The same research shows 10 other states pushing for five to seven hours outside each week.

Indoor plants in common areas or hallways could help people experience this benefit when not in recreational yards. If possible, more access to outdoor spaces with an in-house garden or grassy field could boost their well-being as well.

This strategy might require additional landscaping efforts, like adding organic fertilizer around facility grounds and finding greener ways to water plants. However, the environmental support wouldn’t only benefit the ecosystem and people outdoors. Individuals viewing nature from within justice facility windows also experience better mental health outcomes if they can appreciate greenery daily.

3. Improve Building Structures

Facility buildings would improve from sustainable wellness practices alongside residents. Ones constructed years ago with traditional materials could use components like older paint that release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that harm people and the planet by leaking toxins into the air. Painting over it with VOC-free paint would make residents and the environment healthier.

Improvements are happening throughout the country. Alabama is investing over $1 billion into new facilities to shutter older buildings needing excessive repairs. The updated construction materials — such as effective insulation, materials that lack asbestos and standard window designs that insulate buildings better — ensure better living environments.

4. Install Solar Energy

Solar panels power justice facilities sustainably and could become more widely used nationwide. The Denver Detention Facility recently installed solar panels to reduce the building’s carbon footprint and gain more funding for residents.

The excess energy the panels create becomes more facility funding when a local power company repurchases them through the grid. The money supports occupants by funding food, activities and increased staff support. The Denver facility also used the extra electricity production to grant more access to technology so residents can video call their families or attend virtual classes more often.

The community benefits from this sustainable practice because justice facilities with solar panels draw less power from the regional grid. The installation also introduces solar panels as a standard way to get electricity, encouraging locals to do the same. When installers go to the area, they become informational resources to locals interested in solar panels for their homes and businesses.

5. Recycle Justice Facility Water

Water usage is an integral part of sustainable wellness in justice facilities. The average individual residing in one uses up to 149 gallons of water daily, significantly drawing on the limited natural resource. If justice facilities recycled that water, they’d conserve more for their towns and the environment.

People living within the facilities could get cleaner water if leadership invested in high-quality water treatment and processing equipment. Justice facilities in Washington state are already reducing water usage with green practices to experience the same benefits.

6. Compost Food Waste

No one wants to eat food that doesn’t taste good or support their well-being. When officials in Maine met with food-providing organizations, they realized waste occurred because residents would rather be hungry than eat what the facilities served.

Avoiding this environmental resource waste is becoming easier, especially for those in Maine’s justice facilities. The state encourages places like the Mountain View Correctional Facility to grow over 100,000 pounds of vegetables through on-site gardens.

Residents get to eat the food they grow, avoid wasting what would otherwise be daily meals and gain nature exposure through gardening sessions. Meanwhile, participating facilities could require eco-friendly gardening practices so potential fertilizer chemicals don’t harm the environment.

Elevate Justice Facilities Communities With Sustainability

Any justice facility can enact sustainable wellness practices like these to improve individual well-being, the buildings and the surrounding community. All it takes is creativity and a fresh perspective to help residents and the planet with new initiatives.

  • Beth Rush

    Beth Rush is the green wellness editor at Body+Mind, a health and wellness brand. She covers topics like sustainable agriculture and plant-based recipes. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag. Subscribe to Body+Mind for more posts by Beth!

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