Inmates at the DuPage County Jail are planting their seeds and hoping once they get out they’ll see the fruits of their labor.
The College of DuPage (COD) and the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office have partnered to create a horticulture program for non-violent inmates.
“It’s run by [a] COD botanist and Cantigny horticulturist,” said DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick. “They’re actually training our incarcerated people to basically garden. It’s a life skill, it’s therapeutic, [and] it is going to produce about 3,000 pounds of food for our local food pantries.”
The inmates are enrolled an eight-week course and are responsible for growing plants like eggplants, tomatoes, and more.
Seeing something through from beginning to end gives the inmates a sense of accomplishment and pride, Mendrick said.
Connie Kollmeyer, an instructor for the Sustainable Urban Vegetable and Herb Production course, said inmates would earn three credit hours at the end of the program.
“Even if this wasn’t their choice of degree or certification program, if it can still go towards elective credits or be used in an other way it is still benefitting them,” said Kollmeyer. “It looks for them to say they got some college credit on a resume or job application. So no matter what they do with it, I feel like there’s a lot of benefits going all the way around.”
Daniel Awe, an inmate enrolled in the horticulture program, said he plans on taking advantage on the college credits at COD once he is released, and share the experience with his loved ones.
“When I finally get out of here I think this is something I want to do with my daughter because I didn’t really know that you could plant things with aromas such as peppermint, basil, [and] thyme,” said Awe. “So now that I see that I can create some type of life, like giving birth to a kid, it’s something that I actually enjoy now.”
The Sustainable Urban Vegetable and Herb Production course is one of several programs the sheriff’s office offers.
The class is divided into two parts, a zoom portion and a hands-on portion, which takes part at the jail’s Hope’s Garden.
A fitting name since hope is what is being offered.
“The time they put into to us, they really do care,” said Jim Annoreno another inmate enrolled in the horticulture program. “I’ve seen a lot of change in a lot of the men. I’ve been here about a year now and the changes have been very positive. I see a lot of hope and seen some guys do some good things since they’ve been out. I’m hoping for the same for myself and others.”
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.
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