Inmate gardening program proffered in policy bill

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Prisoners might be able to grow some of their own food.

Part of the omnibus corrections policy bill on its way to the governor is a provision calling for the Corrections Department to establish an inmate gardening program at each correctional facility where space and security allows.

Sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) and Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), HF2415/ SF2084* was passed 131-0 by the House. The Senate passed it 65-0 March 28.

“The produce is to be used for feeding the offenders; excess produce would be donated to food shelves or charities,” said Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe), who sponsored this provision in the House as HF467.

“Some of the results of this in other states is they see lower recidivism rates with gardening programs, it also saves thousands of dollars — some states save several million dollars — in food costs to the prisoners,” Gruenhagen said, adding inmates have sought a gardening program for many years.

Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) said it’s important to teach prisoners skills to help reduce recidivism when they are released. “We’re taking a step in the right direction here.”  

Other provisions in the omnibus bill are:

  • victims who would like to be informed when their offender is released from prison or a secure hospital could be notified electronically;
  • allowing the Department of Corrections’ Fugitive Apprehension Unit to apply for a search warrant;
  • barring offenders convicted of murder, manslaughter, criminal sexual conduct, assault, drive-by shooting, assault, robbery, arson and other specified crimes from participating in the Challenge Incarceration Program; and
  • eliminating an annual performance report from the Department of Corrections, instead reverting back to a biennial report. This is expected to save the department approximately $8,000.