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Better inmates through prison gardens

By Jeff Humphrey, KXLY4 Reporter , jeffhu@kxly.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:17:40 AM CST
Updated On: Aug 15 2013 08:33:33 PM CDT
Gardening inmates
AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. -

Inmates at the Airway Heights Corrections Center are growing their own food in a series of new gardens there as part of a program that's saving taxpayers money and helping with prisoner rehabilitation.

Anybody who's ever brought up a productive garden knows it takes a lot of time and sunshine and that's exactly what inmates have an abundance of at the Airway Heights Corrections Center.

"We got tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, jalapenos, bell peppers," inmate Jeremy Bakke said.

Bakke is wrapping up a three-year sentence on a burglary charge, but before his release next month he will help harvest tons of vegetables he started from seeds.

"We're at 6,200 pounds so far this season and we're expecting up to 30,000 pounds of produce out of this garden this year and we're expanding next year about a hundred yards out," he said.

All of the vegetables the inmates grow end up in the prison's kitchen. As the gardens mature managers are ordering 15 to 20 fewer cases of canned vegetables every day.

"It's a win-win," AHCC food manager Marc Miller said. "A win for the inmates because they're getting a good nutritious meal, and it's a win for the budget because we're not purchasing those products that are already pre-prepared or processed foods."

Gardens have sprung near inmate housing units as well. Tim Durst has been locked up for 20 years and said having a chance to nurture something behind bars, to work in the soil in this world of concrete and metal, has changed inmate attitudes.

"I believe mentally it helps us to stay calm. It helps us to work out our frustrations. We're able to work together to socially interact without conflict," Durst said.

Even if you think prison inmates don't deserve fresh vegetables, the community is benefiting from the therapeutic benefits of the garden program as 95 percent of the inmates at Airway Heights are eventually going to be paroled.

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