Inmates become farmers at the Waiawa Correctional Facility
Waking up early to tend a crop, to see something go from seed to table, it's more than just farming. It's rehabilitation and job training for some inmates at Waiawa Correctional Facility.
WAIPAHU, Hawaii - Waking up early to tend a crop, to see something go from seed to table, it's more than just farming.
It's rehabilitation and job training for some inmates at Waiawa Correctional Facility.
Acres of well tended crops catch your eye on a visit to the Waiawa correctional facility.
Through the Department of Public Safety's Hawaii Corrections Industries, inmates can work, earn money and gain skills that can help them when they are eventually released.
There are many programs. For some, it's farming.
"The farm program for us is critical because of the skills that it teaches to these guys that they're probably not going to get at any other place," Robert Mahaffey, Hawaii Corrections Industries Administrator said.
A variety of vegetables are grown at the farm program.
Koa Keliikoa says it's the camaraderie that he enjoys and his chance to help fellow inmates.
"From here you can see part of the work that comes out you know, the boys kind of look up to me as an uncle figure so I take them around, I know I share my mana'o with them," Inmate Koa Keliikoa from the Big Island said.
Only certain inmates will qualify for the farm program. While it is hard work, it has its benefits.
"It's a pleasure to get out and be able to work in the open besides being locked up," Inmate Colin Young from Kauai said
Once the lettuce is harvested, it's brought to the washing station where inmates carefully watch each head, before they are trucked out.
Most of the produce from the farm at Waiawa got to the other facilities and ends up on the trays for staff and for inmates.
Waiawa Farm produces a lot of produce enough to supply veggies to others.
"We deliver to the other facilities: OCCC, Halawa, Women's and also a little bit goes to the State Hospital. Also to YMCA Fernhurst and KCC," Milton Sato, Waiawa Prison Farm Director said.
KCC as in Kapiolani Community College, which also takes the fish grown in the farm's aquaponics area. Prisoners can't be fed the fish because of bones, but KCC uses them in their culinary program.
At the Women's correctional center, dozens of boxes of fresh romaine have arrived from Waiawa.
The inmates working in the culinary program carefully wash the produce, and then begin to chop up the lettuce prepping it for the day's meals.
The different facilities have come to rely on the Waiawa produce to supplement their meals.
And the Hawaii corrections industries hopes to expand so more people will have the chance to taste Waiawa Prison Farm produce.
"Right now, it's just with the correctional center and the facilities, but we're looking at upgrading our washing station and getting it to a point where we're exceeding standards so that we can start working with anybody that wants to do business with us," Mahaffey said.
The inmates welcome the expansion and the gift they receive from the farm.
"It gives us a sense of some kind of accomplishments that at the end of our day you know, we go back to the building and uh we accomplished something. we helped out and gave back because a lot of us took a lot so this is about giving back for me," Young said.