Billings, Montana 04/28/2016--//mna press//--Yellowstone County’s Women’s Prison started a dexterous service project 3 years ago in collaboration with the Master Gardener Program extension of MSU-B. It started as an initiative to become self- sufficient, providing food and cutting facilitation costs.
“They had a shoe-string budget of only 189,000 dollars for everything from the fence to the green house and even to buy the alley from the city and the facility now houses a 2,400 sq. ft. greenhouse and about an acre of land,” said, Associate Warden Bob Paul.
Inmate Jennifer Gillock teaches a Montana News Reporter on how to prepare the soil for the Sage Brush Seeds.
He’s been working on the project since the beginning along with Lieutenant Hosa, who was one of the first staff members brought on to help design and build the area. After this project started to sustain the needs of the prison’s salad bar, they were able to donate 1,500lbs of food to the food bank two years ago and 3,600lbs this year.
That was in part to support the "Feed Montana initiative" started by Governor Schweitzer.
In 2016 sage brush was brought onto the facility to create a partnership with the sage grouse initiative promoting wildlife conservation.
The Sage Grouse initiative helps support the eco-system, wildlife like deer or sage grouse and by extension hunters. The sage brush grows slowly and only produces a plant about 5in tall in two years.
State Representative Jessica L. Karjala HD #48 and Worden Joan Daly express their total support for these female inmates
Since implementing the plant into the program, they have produced 20,000 plants. The inmates and program administrators hope to produce 30-40 thousand for next year. Of all the seeds planted, they hope to get an average of 65% return on thriving plants.
“I am a huge advocate for vocational rehabilitation” Says the Warden, “I would like to implement other non-gender stereotypical programs to provide the inmates the best opportunity to succeed and reduce the possibility they return to the facility.” -Warden Joan Daly It's obvious that Warden Daly not just go's to work every day, but that she actually treats each and every inmate living their as one of her own family members. Warden Daly's ability to communicate with each and every woman with an open door policy speaks volumes as to how big her heart is for these female inmates. She and her staff teach the women prisoners to survive once they are released and more importantly, not come back.
Inmate Paula McDonald, was busy mixing the dirt for the seeds. McDonald intends on becoming a productive member of society. McDonald when released from the Women's prison, will have great life skills and a renewed perspective with a bright future ahead of her.
The project involving the sage brush has been a challenge. Master Gardiner Sharon had to attend a three-day seminar on how to cultivate the plant for maximum return. However, this program greatly benefits the community and the women involved in the project.
The Master Gardiner program comes in and teaches the 12 women how to care for the plants. The women have the opportunity to become a level 1 or 2 gardener while at the facility and may continue their education at MSU Bozeman to get their level 3 certification.
The BLM also gives the women an accreditation that can be added to their resume. Many of these women haven’t had support emotionally or financially and have had some set-backs in life, but by participating in the program the women learn how to work together as a team, building life skills for life, supporting their nutritional needs, future financial needs, and family needs.
The women are learning about anemology, canning, how to journal, stay consistent with watering, soil testing, as well as, gaining connections and college credit for when they are released. Being in this program provides the praise and satisfaction needed to thrive, becoming a productive member of the community.
If you would like to support this initiative the Women’s prison located on 27th street is accepting donations of any kind from the community. Please call Warden Daly at (406)-247-5100