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SHOSHONI, Wyo. (AP) - A formal groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of construction for a mushroom farm that will be the state's first major prison industry.
The $4-$5 million Wind River Mushrooms plant will employ inmates from the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton. The mushroom plant is expected to be fully operational within five years.
The financiers are Doug Tanner and James Clair, partners in Sunrise Mushroom, LLC.
''It's the largest single investment ever made by any private company in the National Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program,'' said Gary Starbuck, honor farm superintendent.
According to Starbuck, 20 inmates will work on the plant as it is being built. Another 20-30 will be hired as the plant becomes operational and eventually the plant will employ 80-100 inmates.
Construction is expected to wrap up in February.
Starbuck said the plant will produce 50,000 pounds of mushrooms a week to start, including white button, crimini and portobello mushrooms.
''Offering a chance for reform to those willing to take it is a worthy pursuit, and I am pleased to be able to offer my congratulations as we recognize Wind River Mushrooms today,'' Gov. Dave Freudenthal said in a prepared statement read by Wyoming Department of Corrections Director Bob Ortega.
Around 75-100 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
Inmates will be paid the federal minimum wage, which is currently $5.15 per hour. They will be required to save 10 percent of their salary and the rest will go toward restitution, child support and court fines.
Starbuck said inmates who work at the facility should be able to be free of debt and have $2,000-3,000 in savings when they are released.