Branchville offenders keep active despite COVID-19

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From Local Sources

BRANCHVILLE — Creative ideas are keeping offenders busy at Branchville Correctional Facility during COVID-19, according to Warden Kathy Alvey.

As with many people in quarantine, Branchville is looking for creative ways to safely keep offenders engaged in pro-social activities during COVID-19, according to Alvey. In response, she said, Branchville’s Jim Holmes has created two unique projects.

Holmes and an offender work crew have created a pollinators garden in a space previously used to keep scrap wood. The area was cleaned of debris this week with the help of Officer K. Sodrel, the Branchville gardens officer, according to Alvey.

“The projects provide work for offenders, fresh produce for those in need and a sense of community, fellowship and the opportunity to give back” during these uncertain times, Holmes said.

Sodrel helped staff and offenders plant several plants designed to draw in pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. Some of the garden area will be used to plant large vegetables, such as watermelons, cantaloupes and pumpkins for donation to charities.

Branchville annually donates more than 10,000 pounds of produce to local food banks, senior retirement communities and child care organizations. With the addition of the new garden, Branchville is hoping to increase total pounds donated and become the top producer within the Indiana Department of Correction.

Alvey said the garden will also grow long-neck gourds to make birdhouses. She said the birdhouses are just another venue of donation for the facility and a way to engage with local communities, organizations and nonprofits.

Branchville’s sawmill currently makes several items for donation, such as wood rocking chairs, dog and cat houses, and cutting boards. That is in addition to cabins made for the Department of Natural Resources’ state recreational parks.

Offenders have also completed a totem with representations of the American flag, a bald eagle and a Tell City fire department badge and fire hydrant that will be donated to the Tell City Volunteer Fire Department and placed at a fire station on 12th Street in Tell City.

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