“Women have a hard time being reintroduced to society,” Sanfilippo says, “especially with the stigma of corrections these days.” The Kates Foundation is dedicated to making opportunities available to inmates beyond the basic minimum for which the state is responsible.
“Let’s say we have an inmate that is allergic to the soap we have. The Kates Foundation provides money to get an alternative brand,” Sanfilippo explains. The foundation also helps pay for larger projects like the horticulture program.
“The program teaches women the horticulture business,” she says: “How to grow, where to grow, when to grow — the whole shootin’ match.”
Inmates work on gardening projects such as flowerbeds on the grounds of the facility. According to Assistant Warden Joan Kerr, inmates have “instructional, classroom time and actual with-the-plant time.”
The results are good, Kerr adds: “I’ve gone other places for my bedding plants and they’re not nearly as hardy as they are here.”
Elizabeth Kates, the center’s first warden, started the foundation in 1942 with the help of her sorority sisters in Pi Beta Phi, with the belief that there are needs in life that go beyond the basics. Through Kates’ work in the prison and the foundation, many projects take a rehabilitative rather than punitive approach.
“The inmates take a lot of pride in the horticulture program,” Kerr says. “It sounds like the softer side of prison, but it’s not. Kates gives us the flexibility to reinforce positive behavior, and if you do these kinds of things, you’re going to get positive results.”
May 5, tours of the facility, along with the plant, craft and bread sales, will begin at 3 p.m. The foundation’s annual meeting and inmate’s speech will begin at 4:30 p.m. A dinner will be served at 5:30. A shuttle is provided for bringing plants from the greenhouse to the parking lot and there is a holding area for all purchases. For information call (804) 784-3582.
— Amy Biegelsen
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