Utah Department of Corrections

UDC Donates Inmate-Grown Pumpkins to Children, Community Groups


DRAPER, Utah – Local kids got a special Halloween delivery from an unlikely source. Thousands of pumpkins harvested, gathered, and cleaned by Utah State Prison inmates were donated to various organizations that serve children in our community.

The inmates in the Utah State Prison’s Green Thumb program harvest the pumpkins annually from early-June to mid-October, largely using donated pumpkin seeds. The program is self-sustaining, meaning inmates feel the fulfillment of giving back, and children get the benefit of a Halloween pumpkin – all without straining the public’s tax money.

The offenders bleach and scrub the pumpkins prior to delivery to ensure they don’t risk spreading diseases to hospitalized children. Prison officers load the pumpkins into trailers and deliver them to various organizations throughout Salt Lake County, including Primary Children’s Medical Center, Camp Kostopulos, Shriner’s Hospital, the Boys & Girls Club, Turn Community Center, and others.

Some inmates in a substance-abuse treatment program give the donations a special artistic touch, painting intricate designs or depictions on the pumpkins.

The project comes with mutual benefits – it gives offenders the opportunity to more actively repay their debts to society. Several offenders said the program gives them a way to be productive and keep their spirits up, while serving the community and putting smiles on the children’s faces. One inmate added the Greenhouse program teaches valuable skills, which he hopes will help him earn a job at a nursery when he is eventually released.

The offenders never interact with the children or leave the prison to deliver the pumpkins, but they receive numerous cards offering gratitude, which are pinned around the Greenhouse offices. The inmates credit the news coverage of the event as the only time they get to see the excitement on the kids’ faces as they collect the pumpkins.

Following the Halloween project, the offenders immediately begin growing poinsettias to deliver to children and the Capitol Building for the holiday season. Female inmates also build gingerbread scenes from scratch and donate them to the Festival of Trees.

Salt Lake Tribune
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