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For Immediate Release: June 28, 2004


Lynne Richmond




(TRENTON) – The colors of summer arrived outside of the New Jersey Health and Agriculture Building today, when New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus, Juvenile Justice Commission Executive Director Howard L. Beyer, and a group of youths under the supervision of the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) planted flowering annual plants in planters on the Warren Street side of the building in downtown Trenton.

In a cooperative agreement between the agencies, the Department of Agriculture purchased the plants, while the JJC provided the labor at no cost.

“By working together, we were able to beautify a state office building at a cost savings to the Department and start what I hope to be a long and mutually beneficial relationship between Agriculture and Juvenile Justice,” said Secretary Kuperus. “I also never want to pass up an opportunity to educate young people about the diversity of agriculture in our state.”

The Juvenile Justice Commission is responsible for more than 2,000 youth, comprised of approximately 1,000 committed youth, 300 probationers, and more than 900 juvenile parolees. JJC residents range in age from 12 to 23.

The JJC operates six secure facilities, 16 residential community homes, and six day programs.

The eight young gardeners today are housed at the JJC’s Edison Prep Residential Home and Valentine Residential Community Home. The young people are either lower level offenders or have responded positively to other programs and are preparing to return home.

“The Juvenile Justice Commission was pleased to assist with this worthwhile community event as part of our ‘Good Neighbor Initiative,’” said Beyer. “Community service projects such as this one not only allow these juveniles to give back to their community, but help them to develop important skills. Communication and team work are just two tools that increase the likelihood that these youth will lead productive lives when they return home instead of returning to the correctional system.”

In all, the young people planted flowers in 55 planters surrounding the Health and Agriculture building.

Horticulture is taught as a vocational program at several JJC facilities. Under the guidance of skilled horticulturalists, students not only learn how to grow and transplant plants, but also are instructed on basic principles of landscape design and sales.

The JJC is currently responsible for landscaping at the State House, Hughes Justice Complex, various municipal complexes, and is currently designing a landscape plan for the Trenton War Memorial. In addition, the JJC provides poinsettias to various State offices during the holiday season.

“Next year, we plan to provide the Juvenile Justice Commission with cuttings the young people can grow themselves to plant in our planters, at even more of a cost saving to the Department than this year,” said Kuperus. “I hope this experience will spark an interest in agriculture in these youngsters that they can take with them throughout their lives.”