RIVERTON, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) About 200 students with special needs received a festive delivery from the Utah Department of Corrections, Wednesday.
Prison-grown pumpkins transformed the Kauri Sue Hamilton School’s atrium into a fully-harvested selection for students who may not normally have the chance to visit a real pumpkin patch.
“We have kids who are in wheelchairs and kids who have difficulty walking… they’re not always patient enough either to go do that,” explained Principal Rita Bouillon.
Bouillon says that is why the chance to pick a pumpkin in the comfort of the kids’ own school with their own teachers is such a great opportunity. It is also an opportunity the school would not have without the Utah State Prison. Turns out, a group of inmates has quite the green thumb.
“They actually seed the pumpkins in the spring…” said Correctional Industry Supervisor Todd Barszcz. “We teach them everything from seed germination to various methods of propagation,” he explained.
For six months, prisoners have cultivated and cared for the crops through the the department’s horticulture program. It is all part of an effort to educate inmates and broaden their skill sets to make them more marketable for employment after serving their sentences.
“Our hope is that it will reduce crime in our neighborhoods,” Barszcz added.
And the prisoners take pride in their work — some even painted intricate scenes and colorful characters to make their gifts more meaningful.
“This year, we have some Yo Gabba Gabba, some Thomas the Train. Minions are always popular,” Barszcz said, who argues the project may mean more to the inmates than to the kids.
“The first thing they ask is, ‘How did it go? How was the reaction of the kids?'” he told Good 4 Utah’s Ali Monsen.
Many students leave wishing they could thank the not-so-typical farmers and artists who have brightened their holiday.
“I guess I — I am kind of grateful for those guys,” one students smiled.
Prison staff plan on doing it all over again next week when they deliver another crop to the Jordan Valley School for special needs in Midvale.