When the United States saw food scarcity during the Great Depression, prisons in Iowa turned to farming to help feed incarcerated people.

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Iowa owns over 4,000 acres of farmland surrounding prisons and residential facilities. One-third of that land surrounds Anamosa State Penitentiary.

During the Great Depression, Anamosa State Penitentiary grew the fruits and vegetables the inmates ate behind bars. They also raised hogs, cattle, and poultry, collected eggs, and made milk, cheese, and ice cream.

Prison farming was also the first prison vocational program outside of prison walls.

To help generate more money for the state, The Gazette reports that the state is considering selling that land. If the ground is sold, an estimated $32.7 million would be raised.

This isn’t the first time the state has considered selling the land. In 2002, a report by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau thought about selling or renting the land. The downsides to this included limiting opportunities for offender employment. It also reduces the opportunity for prison extension projects.

In November 2022, The Gazette reports that the average land value was more than $9,000 an acre.

Currently, much of the land around farmland is rented to other farmers. This brings in $1.7 million a year.

A report from Guidehouse, a Virginia-based consulting firm recommended some ways Iowa could save money, from reducing duplication of computer software to selling the prison farmland.

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