CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Using land already owned by the state and the prison population to work the fields, West Virginia inmates are producing some food for tables in other prison facilities across the state.
The commissioners of Agriculture and Corrections reported on the cooperative project to two joint committees Tuesday during the Legislature’s Interim session.
Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick said the prison at Huttonsville, where 250,000 pounds of potatoes were planted and inmates are harvesting the crop now, is the pilot program for the state. The women’s correctional facility at Lakin planted sweet potatoes, Helmick said, and 15,000 pounds of that crop has been harvested there. Female prisoners at Lakin also grew and harvested 6,000 pounds of cabbage, he said.
“They were extremely impressive,” Helmick said of the crops.
In addition, Helmick said 300 bushels of beans and 2,000 dozen ears of corn have been put back into the prison system.
Not only does it help the prison system’s bottom line in spending on food costs, it also gives prisoners a job while they are incarcerated and a skill when they leave.
“They can run equipment and they can learn an occupation,” Helmick said. “When they leave there they will have a little something to offer.”
The commissioner predicted that each facility would produce more crops next year.
Helmick said that soils in the western part of the state are particularly good for certain crops like sweet potatoes.
Commissioner of Corrections Jim Rubenstein said the workforce is ready.
“We have lots of inmates who are capable of working…