The Iowa Correctional Institution for Women (ICIW) is located in Mitchellville, a small town 20 miles east of Des Moines. The campus houses about 650 offenders, most of whom have a history of health and personal struggles; ranging from physical and mental abuse, mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction. In 2010 the Iowa Department of Corrections approached the Landscape Architecture department at Iowa State University making one simple request: a planting plan for the new Iowa Correctional Institution for Women’s campus that would have a calming and therapeutic effect. The students knew they could fulfill this request, but they also saw the opportunity for so much more. A master plan was created and proposed in 2012, leading to multiple design build projects taking place. In the past four years, the collaboration has resulted in a multipurpose outdoor classroom, a decompression area for staff, a healing garden for the special needs population and food production plots.
Within the prison fence lay a daunting expanse of sparse turf grass that requires extensive maintenance by the offenders. As a more productive and cost-effective use of this space, our team designed and planted one acre of vegetable and herb gardens that are planted, managed, harvested, prepared and eaten by the offenders. This project will also help the kitchen provide more nutritious meals for the women at an affordable cost. We planted a variety of high yield crops that the kitchen uses, such as tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and beans. The women have taken ownership of the one acre trial space. They collected and recorded the pounds yielded each day. They were excited to be able to help provide nutritious meals for their community and the project gave the women a sense of pride in contributing to the greater good of the prison.
This season and in the coming years we plan to continue to expand the program and make it sustainable. We will continue to add production plots as well as purchase a high tunnel system and a greenhouse to expand the production season. The committee of women will receive educational training to help them decide what crops to plant, when to plant and harvest, and how to care for the spaces. In addition, we plan to provide job placement resources that will help the women to continue to use the skills they have learned once they are released out of prison. Your donation to the Prison Production Garden Program will help us redefine the prison landscape, making it more productive and therapeutic.
To learn more about the space: http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2015/07/28/prison