From “Late Night with Conan” to Rikers Island

Deborah Shaw was an established costume designer in New York City. For 15 years she worked for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” creating hundreds of costumes for the program. But when the show moved to Los Angeles, she decided to stay in New York and do something completely different.

And her second act took her to Rikers Island, one of the most dangerous prisons in America. Starting in 2009, she began working in  “The Big Garden” — a two-acre plot amid the prison complex — helping both detainees and prisoners via horticultural therapy. Today she is building a new program for the Fortune Society using gardening to help individuals recently released from the prison system re-enter everyday life.


Special thanks to Sarah McKinney of for connecting us with Deborah Shaw.

4 thoughts on “From “Late Night with Conan” to Rikers Island

  1. allan Reply

    Fascinating story. Thanks so much for seeking out the people in this world who make it a better place. Excellent podcast.

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  3. Pingback: How Meditation and Horticulture Help People Heal After Prison

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