Some offenders at the Plainfield Correctional Facility now have a way to give back to the community while learning an important skill — gardening.
Philip Slavens, assistant superintendent of re-entry at the facility, said the Indiana Department of Correction gardening program has been reborn.
“Five or six years ago we had a horticulture class here through the vocation program,” Slavens said. “When we lost the horticulture class, we lost the garden. The garden gives the men a chance to get out of the dormitory and spend their time doing something good.”
This spring, Sgt. Bobby Paige restarted the gardening program, with the help of a $300 donation.
“The correctional staff helped to plow and till the ground,” Slavens said. “We got the bedding plants, but we knew we couldn’t get the garden going without inmate help. Bobby has a real passion for this. He’s been a big help. The gentleman that used to teach the horticulture class has also helped out when he can.”
Paige said the garden has been a lot of hard work, but it’s become a great asset to the facility and the offenders.
“It’s definitely been a worthwhile project,” he said. “And it makes coming to work a pleasure. Each day, 15 to 20 offenders come out and carry water to the entire garden.”
Slavens and Paige offered the opportunity to work in the garden to offenders housed in the PLUS Dormitory. PLUS is a faith- and character-based re-entry initiative. It stands for Purposeful Living Units Serve and it offers alternatives for rehabilitation.
Offenders Wesley Cashdollar, Kyle Hart, and James Hodapp are PLUS dorm residents that are working toward a leadership roll in the garden project.
“This really gives people a good, positive thing to do,” Cashdollar said. “It also gives you a sense of pride.”