Compost complex introduced at Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution

A win-win situation all around was announced at the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution Wednesday morning. The institution has partnered with Barnes Nursery and established a compost complex on site.

"Oh it’s going to be phenomenal because this is a growing industry," said James Haviland, warden at Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution. "Not only in the state of Ohio, but nationwide. With the composting and conservation efforts going fourth these guys will be leaving with skills in EPA regulations, learning the paper work process, how to operate a compost facility safely and within the guidelines and regulations."

Offenders will be running the compost facility with about six to eight working at a time. This process will remove about 5,000 tons of food residual from landfills according to the warden.

Speaking with an offender who has been working in the complex for six months, he said it is a very meticulous and precise process. He said he gained an appreciation for this kind of work, having come from the city with no knowledge of agricultural practices.

Barnes Nursery, the company that helped put together the operation, started in the landscaping business and later moved to compost. This venture is one quite new to them.

"Never with a correctional facility but we’ve worked with other cities," said Vice President of Barnes Nursery Sharon Barnes. "But then this one came up and we jumped on it." 

The institution was able to re-purpose its barn and resources after changing agriculture practices. With the changes, this complex can be beneficial to the environment, offenders and possibly Ohio State, who is looking to set up a lab in the complex to test the compost. With all the benefits, more places like this could be popping up.

"That's our intention actually," said Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. "We’re going to be meeting here pretty soon about how this can strategically role out. What’s our next facility? We’ve got a couple facilities that we’re looking at now. And I’d like to do this short term and start making some plans to do this."

The skills the offenders learn during this compost process gives them an advantage, once released back into the work force and a head start for a new life.