Solitary Garden Project


Tim Young is the Solitary Gardener for an innovative social justice project at University of California, Santa Cruz.

Solitary Garden is a participatory public sculpture and garden project by award-winning artist jackie sumell. The project matches people who are currently incarcerated and held in solitary confinement with art institutions or universities to grow gardens on their behalf. The gardens are grown around sculptures made following the blueprint of a standard U.S. solitary confinement cell, transforms the image of confinement into a space of nourishment and hope.

Video overview of Solitary Garden by Jocelyn Lopez-Anleu and Chloe Murr

Tim’s letters for Solitary Garden

“I pictured myself at the Solitary Garden on the UC Santa Cruz campus. I sat on the bench and I overlooked the garden in solitude. I meditated. I walked around the structure, taking in the panoramic splendor of all the flowers and plants. And then, I did what I’ve been dreaming of for so long. I squatted down and felt the earth. I picked up the soil and let it sift through my hands. It has been 21 years” – Timothy James Young

Since August 2019, Tim has written letters to students and staff at UCSC about the garden that is being grown on his behalf. Read about how the garden fosters Tim’s hopes of growing a movement to end solitary confinement.

The Solitary Podcast:

The Institute of the Arts and Sciences at UC Santa Cruz now has a podcast about Solitary Garden w/ Tim Young. Created by Zaarin, a student and intern at the IAS, the podcast features conversations with friends of Tim’s about prison abolition, activism, and friendship. Episode 1, in which Tim talks about the garden, is now available.

Solitary Garden
Dedicated to Herman Wallace and jackie sumell

Solitary Garden
Is not just a plot of land
On the campus of UC Santa Cruz.
To the contrary,
It is an installation
An iteration
A destination worthy of gander.
Riddle it a spot
A spot where we grow crops
A spot where we grow thoughts
What kind of thoughts, you ask?
Thoughts of freedom and abolition
Thoughts of tearing down walls
And shutting down prisons.
Will into existence
A Green New Deal
Revolutionary in hue
Justice driven
New landscapes
No prisons.

(C) Timothy James Young

Abolition from the Inside Out:

A conversation with jackie sumell, Albert Woodfox, and Timothy James Young as part of the Visualizing Abolition webinar series hosted by Institute of Arts & Social Transformation. This episode of the series was hosted in partnership with the Legal Studies department at UC Santa Cruz and a recording of the live event is now available to the public.

Articles about Tim and Solitary Garden:

Abraham, Roshan. “People in Solitary Confinement and Volunteers Team Up to Garden, Imagine a World Without Prisons”. May 2021.

Harshita Neralla. “Mugwort and Bergamot: Solitary Garden’s Spring Plants Center Healing and Restoration”. City on the Hill Press. April 2021.

Rachel Zarrow. “Exhibits Convey Incarcerated Artists Spirits: “No Matter What I did … There’s Beauty Inside Me.” SF Chronicles. March 2021.

Tim’s Interview with Journal of Global Environmental Justice at UC Santa Cruz.

Gabriella Angeleti. “Death Row Inmate Designs Garden Installation by Instructing University Students Through Letters”. The Art Newspaper. January 2021.

Emily Wlison, “A Critical View of the Criminal Justice System, Through Artists’ Eyes”, HyperAllergic, November 2020.

Peggy Townsend, “A Growing Movement.” UC Santa Cruz Magazine, February 2020.

Anna Maria Camardo, “Imagining a Landscape Without Prisons.” City on a Hill Press, January, 2020.

Tim Young Bio – San Jose Museum of Arts.