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DOC Inmates Harvesting Farm Fields for the Maryland Food Bank

 

June 29, 2011 - The idea behind restorative justice is to allow inmates the opportunity to pay back the society they’ve harmed. One of the greatest examples of this is happening now on the Eastern Shore, where inmates are picking fruits and vegetables for the Maryland Food Bank.

The program, just started a few weeks ago, now already includes eleven farms on the Eastern Shore alone. Inmates from Eastern Pre-release Unit---and soon, from Poplar Hill Pre-release Unit--- are harvesting cucumbers, squash, greens, and other fruits and vegetables, with all of the food going to the Maryland Food Bank for distribution statewide to the needy.

Farmer Bob Taylor, a fifth-generation Shore farmer with 80 acres along the Delaware line near Federalsburg, offered to give all of his 20 acres of organic crops to the Food Bank. Division of Correction (DOC) inmates began working there in June. Mr. Taylor hopes to harvest a quarter-million pounds of food for the Food Bank by the end of this year.

On June 29, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) Secretary Gary Maynard, one of American corrections’ foremost advocates of restorative justice programs for inmates, toured the Taylor farm, along with DOC Commissioner J. Michael Stouffer, Inmate Public Works Coordinator John Rowley, and other key players from the DOC.

Butch Langenfelder, Food Sourcing Manager for the Maryland Food Bank, was there too, expressing gratitude--- and maybe even a little amazement--- at the unlikely partnership between a corrections agency and farmers. But in times like these, with so many people struggling, partnerships to help are crucial, and this one has the potential to take off: Langenfelder says other farmers are calling daily, thinking about getting into the Food Bank “coop” as well.

Under Secretary Maynard and Commissioner Stouffer, Maryland’s DPSCS inmates are doing more good for more people than ever before. From oyster replenishment to cemetery restoration, tree planting to bay grass growing---and now, farm field harvesting for the poor. It’s a unique program that seems destined to help thousands of Marylanders, thanks to the Maryland Food Bank, benevolent farmers, and the Maryland Division of Correction and its forward-thinking leaders and hard-working pre-release inmates.