SPRINGFIELD- Illinois – The Illinois Department of Corrections is excited about an effort that began as a vocational opportunity for offenders and has become another avenue for facilities to “go green” and give back to their local communities.
There are currently 23 prisons and several work camps that have incorporated gardens into the prison grounds. Some are primarily used for teaching offenders horticulture skills while others have become large enough to feed inmates, staff, and needy families in local communities.
“This year IDOC facilities have donated over 5,000 pounds of fresh produce to local community food banks”, said IDOC Director S.A. “Tony” Godinez. “Building a culture of sustainability and generosity in our agency will make us better stewards of the resources entrusted to us, and set an example for inmates to follow upon release.”
Examples of produce grown by inmates include potatoes, lettuce, radishes, green beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, zucchini, onions, cucumbers, turnips, eggplant, watermelon and cantaloupe. Local food banks have been especially grateful for department’s donations during these hot summer months.
“The Pittsfield Work Camp garden has provided our food pantry with nutritional resources that otherwise would not be available to the families we serve,” said Rachel Baker, manager of the Two Rivers Food Pantry in Pittsfield, IL. “This is something that our agency and families greatly appreciate.”
The prison gardens are just one facet of the department’s recently released sustainability initiative. The department has committed to conserve energy, reduce waste, grow more of its own food and become a more self-sufficient agency. This multifaceted initiative will save taxpayer dollars, create offender vocational and job training opportunities, and reduce the environmental impacts of IDOC operations.
For more information on prison gardens or the IDOC’s sustainability initiative please visit: http://www2.illinois.gov/idoc/aboutus/Pages/Sustainability.aspx