Beginning Life Anew: How Eddie Belton Has Turned a New Leaf in North Central’s Horticulture Program

As Eddie Belton trims a fern plant inside a greenhouse at the North Central Correctional Complex in Marion, Ohio, he has a message to share.

“I just like having the opportunity to tell our story, to let the people outside know what they do matters to us, and the time and effort they put into us is not being wasted,” he says.

Eddie has been in prison since 2006. He has a parole hearing in 2029. But he doesn’t let that stop him from improving his life now.

Just as he cuts off the dead fronds from a fern plant, he says he and the other residents are trying to remove those things from their lives that led to them being incarcerated. And he says the staff at North Central, including horticulture instructor Scott MacCready, are giving them the tools they need to succeed.

“It’s most definitely important to give [residents] an opportunity to change and let them know that someone like Mr. MacCready and [the] warden truly care. They put time and effort in this program.”

Residents walk outside NCCC.

North Central offers many programs to help residents prepare to re-enter society. The horticulture program is one of them. During his time at North Central, Eddie has become a master-certified nursery and landscape management technician. At the time of this story, he was also working on a horticulture apprenticeship.

“To be able to come in and learn a skill and you can get out and work with your hands. You don’t have to do any illegal things. And some of the [former horticulture students] write back and they tell us how this program helped them get jobs.”

Eddie and the other men in the program work hard. Each year, they grow thousands of pounds of produce that is later donated to people in need.

“For some of the wrongs that I’ve done,” adds Eddie, “it’s like making reparations and making amends, giving back to the community of which we may have taken from or damaged relationships and things like that.”

Eddie Belton, NCCC resident.

He says there is hope and asks that people believe that they can change.

“Let them know that just because you made a mistake does not make you unredeemable and that everyone deserves a second chance.”