Unique program lets inmates plant garden

Posted at 5:38 PM, May 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-10 19:38:11-04

Inmates from the Southern Idaho Correctional Institution are coming out from behind bars to grow food that goes directly to the Idaho Foodbank.

Is a jail sentence supposed to be time spent in a cell, waiting for your time to expire? At SICI, the answer is no.
Instead rehabilitation is the objective. One program fulfilling the mission is a ten acre garden planted by select inmates.

"It helps the people that feel like they're just a number that they're really not," said Russell Porter.

Porter is serving a five year sentence for forgery he committed to supply his drug addiction. Getting the chance to work the field is in many ways therapy for him.

"I had to come to prison to clear my head, get the help I needed,” he said. “I was headed down the wrong path and I knew it was either come here and straighten up or end up on a worse path."

At the start of the season, inmates clear the field of rocks -- just as they need to clean the destructive habits that sent them to prison.

Then, planting. After months of careful tending, there’s the culminating harvest.

"Being behind the gate for so long, you don't know what to do,” said Porter. “This actually helps us."

More than the benefits for inmates, much of what is grown on this field goes directly to the Idaho Foodbank. Last year's harvest brought more than 380,000 pounds of produce.

"This is my way of saying okay, maybe I can do something better with my life for the community I live in," said Porter.

The Foodbank finds donors to supply seeds for the project. They are actively looking for more donations.