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Prison bakery to use regional wheat

Inmates load food trays for sealing and freezing inside the “food factory” at Airway Heights Corrections Center on Wednesday. Inmates produce lunches, dinners and a variety of baked goods for institutions and jails, as well as for Meals on Wheels programs. (Jesse Tinsley)
Inmates load food trays for sealing and freezing inside the “food factory” at Airway Heights Corrections Center on Wednesday. Inmates produce lunches, dinners and a variety of baked goods for institutions and jails, as well as for Meals on Wheels programs. (Jesse Tinsley)

Domestic violence put him behind bars 10 years ago, but Donald Kanne has plans for a better life when he leaves prison.

And he owes it in part to dough.

Kanne’s job at the Airway Heights Corrections Center bakery has helped him develop work skills he hopes will translate to a job when he rejoins society in about two years.

“Working here has given me insight into teamwork and how to be productive,” he said. “It will give me a start when I’m released.”

A new partnership between the state prison system and a regional wheat grower means Kanne, 54, and other inmates will be building those skills with a local product.

Starting this month, the Airway Heights bakery will be using flour produced by Shepherd’s Grain, an alliance of family farmers in Washington, Idaho and Oregon who follow environmentally friendly farming practices.

Shepherd’s Grain co-founder Karl Kupers joined Department of Corrections officials Wednesday for a bakery tour with media.

Kupers said he hopes the local product can help with prisoner rehabilitation.

“People care more about what they’re doing when they know what’s behind it,” Kupers said.

Nearly 290 inmates work at the bakery, which is open 24 hours a day, five days a week and produces bread, cinnamon rolls, brownies and other food items that are distributed throughout the region, including to jails, prisons and Meals on Wheels programs.

Inmates are paid between 55 cents and $1.60 per hour, with about 70 percent withheld for victim compensation, court restitution and other costs.

Eligible inmates are interviewed and must have no violent infractions in the previous six months before going to work in the bakery. They also are required to have their GED or be seeking it.

Security has become a heavy discussion topic in the prison system since the slaying of Monroe Corrections Center guard Jayme Biendl last weekend, allegedly by Byron Scherf, a convicted rapist from the Spokane area. The chapel where Biendl was found dead is not monitored by surveillance cameras.

Several cameras monitor the Airway Heights bakery, and two security guards watch the area. Six Department of Corrections staff total are on site.

Kanne said he sees few problems between inmates at work.

“They come here to work; they don’t come here to fight or be disruptive,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I like working here.”



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