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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Kailua inmates to cultivate plants, skills

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Bureau

KAILUA — A year-old beautification proposal has evolved into an educational project that will benefit inmates at the Women's Community Correctional Center.

Through a recent $13,000 grant from The Garden Club of Honolulu, the Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle is a step closer to building a hydroponic nursery and education program with the state and Wahine Builders.

But more money is necessary for the project, and the Outdoor Circle and the state will find out if the project will receive another grant this week, said Malcolm Lee, acting warden at the prison.

The hydroponic nursery project is part of the state's effort to provide programs to women prisoners, said Lee.

"We're at a point now where we need to do something different rather than the standard 'just lock them up,' " he said.

The plan calls for the state to renovate a classroom facility and hire a teacher, said Carol Ann Ellett, Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle project coordinator. Wahine Builders will train and supervise the women inmates in the construction of the nursery.

Once classes begin, the Outdoor Circle will also provide experts to teach the women about such things as native plants, irrigation and grass maintenance.

"This is a much bigger project than I thought it would be," she said. "It all started with the donation of a couple of trees."

About a year ago a prison official approached the Outdoor Circle with a request for a few plumeria trees, Ellett said. Since then more trees, plants and groundcover have been planted at the prison.

The Outdoor Circle thought it would be beneficial if the women learned to care for them and offered to set up classes, she said.

Wahine Builders, which operates a nonprofit program called Building Women, has trained four inmates in construction, said Clarice Cornett, co-owner of Wahine Builders.

"Our goal is to build a whole training facility there and have the inmates do their pre-apprenticeship program while they're incarcerated," she said. "We're trying to work that out. Now we need the funding."