Charlotte Richter | Staff Writer
The completion of the 2,800-square-foot Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility
Greenhouse was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 8 at the greenhouse off Sabalu Road.
Lt. Col. Corrie Hanson, MWJRCF Battalion (Corrections) commander, opened the ceremony by thanking project members and contractors dedicated to the construction of the greenhouse.
The $300,000 greenhouse project was first led by the Department of Public Works and former Vocational Agricultural Program NCOIC retired Staff Sgt. David Resor, then DPW Construction Representative Michael Gregg oversaw the project to completion.
Hanson said the greenhouse is significant to the unit because of the opportunities it creates with the prison and that it has taken the tenure of five battalion commanders to see the project to fruition.
“I think the most important thing is that it helps provide vocational training opportunities for some of our inmate population,” said Hanson. “It’s incredible that we’ve gotten to this point.”
The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks operated a greenhouse on post until 1999; the greenhouse
was demolished in 2001. The building where the USDB greenhouse products were sold now houses the Envision Xpress supply center.
Hanson said the inspiration for the greenhouse came from the interest in building a corrections agricultural program, similar to programs in other prison systems. Hanson said the unit hopes to expand the program in the future.
Running the greenhouse is balanced among the unit, inmates and DPW. MWJRCF Vocational Agricultural Program Business Manager John Wahlmeier mentors and oversees the plant growing process, and DPW maintains the building.
Currently, three inmates and other members of the unit are growing plants in the greenhouse.
“We have a program inside (the MWJRCF) that has about 20 inmates. We raise mostly vegetables, and we sell them at the USDB Sales Store,” Wahlmeier said. “This is kind of an offshoot of that as they learn more about making more plants, growing them up to size.”
He said the plants in the greenhouse were grown indoors with lights from an existing greenhouse project. He said some of the plants come from seeds that would’ve been thrown out.
“All of our lemons plants are from seeds from the dining facilities; we’ve got date palms from Ramadan; we have some coffee plants, figs….lots of different (plants),”Wahlmeier said.“We’re going to try to grow a lot of bedding plants and flowers, as well as vegetables, herbs, trees and shrubs.
It’s largely self-driven, so wherever interest lies, we tend to move in that direction.”
Inmates can become involved in the vocational greenhouse program after they achieve the appropriate means of custody. Produce harvested from the greenhouse will be sold in the USDB Sales Store.
“A big part of (the vocational program) is a low barrier of entry — a big part of it is your knowledge knowing how to do it,” Wahlmeier said. “That’s why we’re training the inmates — when they get out they’ll have that knowledge so they can start a business or grow veggies or whatever they need to. It’s the knowledge that separates it; seeds are cheap.”