Harvest-time has arrived for the inmates and workers at the Madison Correctional Institute (MaCI). Inside the grounds, nearly 45 inmates are working to collect produce from gardens planted specifically for the purpose of donating their bounty to the community.
In total, there are five gardens on the premises, planted and maintained by inmates, as part of a program that has been around for four years. Lisa Crain, a case manager overseeing the project and working with the inmates, said the gardens function to both offer them community service hours and a way they can give back.
“To date, they have harvested 3,795 pounds of produce,” Crain said. “And this year we’re going to beat last year’s numbers.”
The produce goes out to a number of organizations in the community including H.E.L.P. House, A Friend’s House and the food pantries of Mount Sterling and West Jefferson. Their goal is to be able to provide for those in need or without access to good, healthy food.
“Sometimes people can’t afford groceries,” said Mike, an inmate working on the grounds. “This way, we can give it to places that can hand some out.”
The gardens have a wide selection of cool and warm weather vegetables ranging from a number of lettuce varieties to root vegetables to onions, tomatoes, peppers and even pumpkins.
“The gardens are all organic,” said Crain. “They don’t use any chemicals and wash the vegetables thoroughly before they go out.” She said they take great pride in cultivating a quality bunch to send to the organizations.
All of the inmates working on the project come from different units within the MaCI. “Some are veterans and some are part of the reintegration program,” Crain said. The duties of the gardens are worked out among the inmates themselves, who then work in shifts caring for the plants. The job is a physical one in every aspect, from weeding to watering. Rather than conventional garden hoses being available for watering, the inmates haul wheelbarrows of water barrels around and hand-pump the water. The work has become a point of pride for all involved.
“It’s a way for us to give back,” said Alonzo, another of the inmates working on the grounds. “It’s something positive we can carry with us when we leave.”
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.