SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) - Since 1998, the State Fair has worked with inmates from local correctional facilities to plant, grow and maintain flowers on fairgrounds.

Each year, starting in May, inmates work five days a week to prepare for opening day.

Inmates like Kristen Pickerill say planting not only acts as a healing process, but allows them to give back to the community.

"I don't want to sit around and do nothing. I feel like with my past, I owe a debt to society," Pickerill said. "This is an opportunity to show the community who we really are. We aren't monsters kept in a cage."

2019 is the first year women have been able to come to the fairgrounds and plant. The inmates help plant more than 100 flower beds and 70 hanging flower pots.

"It's healing all around versus sitting in an institution, feeling like I've just wasted another day of my life," Pickerill said. "I know someone will look at one of these flowers and smile, and I'm responsible."

According to Pickerill, she says this is an opportunity for all inmates to grow.

"(We're) putting something in the ground and seeing it turn into something unexpected and beautiful ... maybe kind of like us," Pickerill said.

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