Imagine a solitary tree on the prairie of Osage county. Under that tree sits a person, in gray clothing, celebrating a break from the hot Oklahoma summer. This tree also happens to share its space in a prison yard. A prison that provides for the needs of its offenders with one exception, and that is an air conditioned place to live. The shade of the tree is cooler than any place that can be found and is one of the most popular places to “be “ at the prison.
Unfortunately, prisons tend to have a negative reaction to anything that may block the view between the guard tower and the ground for obvious reasons. Trees certainly are included in the list of structures that are not usually seen on prison yards. Dick Conner Correctional Center is no exception to this rule. How this tree has continued to exist amazes everyone I have visited with and me.
Why is the shade of this tree so much better then the shade of a block house? The answer is water vapor. The tree transpires, or releases water, as a part of photosynthesis. The water vapor along with the shade and the Oklahoma breeze creates a microenvironment that can be ten to fifteen degrees cooler than one that only is shaded with concrete or other man made materials.
By the way, Up with Trees has a cooperative agreement with Tulsa Community College and Dick Conner Correctional Center to grow three gallon trees to give away next spring. This gives prisoners a way to give back to communities while they continue serving their time.