Hiland Mountain Correctional Center Plant Sale
Working the plant sale is considered a privilege for these inmates
EAGLE RIVER - A popular plant sale in Eagle River is underway. What has made the event unique is not so much the plants, but the people who grow them.
They’re female inmates at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River.
The annual plant sale has been held for more than a dozen years in the prison parking lot. And it always attracts a crowd eager to purchase the hardy hand-grown plants, but it isn’t just loyal customers who look forward to the sale all year – it’s the prisoners themselves.
Women who work the sale get a chance to mingle with the public, sometimes their only chance after long days incarcerated. Most actually grow the plants in a year-round greenhouse program at the prison.
Working there is considered a privilege.
“Inmates have to have good behavior on the inside,” says Corrections Officer Lieutenant Gloria Johnson. “They have to work well with others and have a certain nourishing attitude.”
Inmate Dana Hilbish has that attitude now, but its taken time. She’s nearing the end of a long sentence for a serious crime. She says working in the greenhouse for 14 years has taught her to be more flexible.
“When I leave these walls that’s exactly what I’m facing,” says Hilbish. “I have to adjust to society and this has been a great practice ground for me.”
Hiland has several programs Department of Corrections officials consider “rehabilitative,” and the greenhouse program is one of them. Women learn to work as a team to grow the plants necessary for the large sale. They have to be responsible and put in long hours.
They also learn skills that could translate into real jobs once they are released. Corrections officials consider it a win-win situation - good for the public and their population as well.
The Hiland Plant Sale continues from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.