Eggs on wooden background

Twelve dozen female inmates are being temporarily housed at Hickman’s Family Farms in Buckeye. 

The women working—and now staying—at the farm are all considered “minimum security.”

According to a press release from the Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation and Reentry, the inmates from Perryville Prison in Goodyear will remain at Hickman’s until the COVID-19 public health emergency is over. 

“Our department is focused on ensuring the health and safety of all inmates, officers and staff,” ADCRR Director David Shinn said. “The decision to temporarily house inmates at Hickman’s is necessary to ensure a stable food supply while also protecting public health and the health of those in our custody.”

In normal times over the last decade, female inmates have worked at the farm during the day, then returned to prison at night.

“We would be in a real jam if it weren’t for these lady inmates,” said Clint Hickman, Hickman’s Family Farms’ vice president of sales and marketing and Maricopa County Board Supervisor, District 4. “We would have to disperse our civilian forces even more, into areas that they haven’t been trained in.”

The inmate’s duties have consisted of taking care of the farm’s flock for 10 years, which requires in-depth training, Hickman said.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Maricopa County.

“We just happened to have a building that was totally empty, that was swamp cooled,” Hickman said. “We turned it into, basically, a prison dormitory.” 

Glenn Hickman, president of Hickman’s Family Farms, noted, “many of these women inmates perform critical tasks related to the raising of baby chicks.

“Besides daily care, they also perform most of the tasks of vaccination.”

To work at Hickman’s, the Perryville inmates must be considered minimum security. “You cannot have a violent or sexual crime in nature, to be considered,” Clint Hickman said. “They also have to be within about three years or less of being released from prison.”

One of the important reasons behind temporarily housing the inmates is to keep the distribution of eggs steady to the 13 states Hickman’s services.

Eggs have been among the scarcer items in grocery stores as many people continue to stock up and stay home.

This strategy is benefiting not only West Valley egg shoppers but the female inmates as well, Clint Hickman said. “It keeps them working and keeps their money flow to continue, as some of these ladies are the only breadwinners for their kids on the outside.”