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Friday, Aug. 12


Prisoners' work beautifies the Illinois State Fairgrounds -- all year-round

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[AUG. 12, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Department of Corrections plays an important role in the beautification of the Illinois State Fair throughout the fairgrounds' 360 acres. Since 1994, Department of Corrections staff and work camp inmates, in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, have planted and maintained the vivid flower beds, containers and hanging baskets that frame the fair's streets, buildings and areas of interest.

Lt. Dan Adkins, a supervisor at Logan Correctional Center, said the fair's landscaping has grown considerably since 1994 from about 60 flower beds to more than 230 flower beds. Through the efforts of the Department of Corrections, some 150,000 flowers adorn the fairgrounds, ranging from perennials and annuals to tropical plants and fountain grasses. Another 160 hanging baskets, 65 concrete containers and 100 assorted containers also decorate the fair's primary traffic areas.

The flowers and plants are grown at Lincoln Correctional Center's greenhouse, which supplies nearly 3,000 flats of flowers a year to the fairgrounds.

Correctional Officer Gerry Morgan supervises the flower detail at the fair and is responsible for the maintenance, design and plant types that are used. Maintenance includes watering, weeding, deadheading, pruning, trimming and cutting back the plants. The seeds are also picked and later germinated at the greenhouse.

"Many of the flowers are germinated at different times so they peak and bloom during the fair," Morgan said. "Each year, I look to do something new in landscape design with a few more flowers."

One of the latest flower bed designs includes antique farm equipment loaned by the Vintage Agriculture Association. Equipment such as horse- and oxen-drawn plows from the 1920s and 1930s, old wagon wheels, and a hand plow from the late 1800s are some of the items featured in the middle of sprawling flower beds.

Work continues all year long at the fair. Staff and inmate work crews collect seeds in the fall and turn beds by hand after a killing frost. Morgan noted that plant identification signs also are featured throughout the fair as a courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension.

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In addition to beautifying the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Department of Corrections work camp inmates also plant flowers at the Vietnam Memorial, World War II Memorial and Lincoln's Tomb, as well as providing assistance for hundreds of community events.

"The inmates learn and take pride in seeing the results of their labor," said Department of Corrections Director Roger E. Walker Jr. "The governor and I are committed to enhancing the successful re-entry of inmates into society through rehabilitative programs and services. The agency's work camps serve as one of those components by giving inmates a structured, specialized agenda that develops responsibility, self-discipline, self-respect and the importance of a good work ethic. Such programs not only benefit our communities and help inmates return to society, but also serve as a valuable asset to the taxpayer."

This year to date, the department has contributed approximately 300,000 inmate work hours to communities throughout Illinois. Corrections staff and inmate work crews provide assistance toward disaster relief and public service projects all year long.

For more information about Department of Corrections and its inmate re-entry efforts, visit www.idoc.state.il.us.

[Illinois Department of Corrections news release]

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