Porter County Sheriff's Department

What's Happening at The Porter County Sheriff's Department


Jail Garden

THOMAS QUINN | THE TIMES Two inmates at the Porter County Jail work in their garden. They hope to grow tomatoes and other vegetables. All materials were donated, including the dirt these two inmates are moving.


Serving time, produce

Inmate gardeners cultivate plot ... veggie, that is ... at jail
This story ran on nwitimes.com on Saturday, May 6, 2006 12:07 AM CDT


VALPARAISO | Rather than sit inside their jail cells all day, a group of inmates at Porter County Jail is being put to work growing a fruit and vegetable garden.

The inmates are planting tomatoes, peppers, green beans, cantaloupe, radishes, watermelon and other produce. They are responsible for doing all the planting, weeding and harvesting.  Anything they raise in the 50- by 50-foot patch behind the jail will be served to the entire inmate population.  Jail Commander Ron Kurmis said only three inmates are needed to do the job, but plenty more want to do the work.  "I got more people asking to be on the crew. They love the idea of being able to get outside and get some sun," Kurmis said.  Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy David Lain said the garden is a win-win situation for the staff and inmates. The inmates benefit from getting outside, from gaining a sense of accomplishment and from growing good food to eat.  The jail staff benefits by supplementing the food budget with inmate-grown produce and by giving inmates an incentive to behave to get on the work detail. Inmates may take turns working in the garden, Lain said.  Lain said the garden project started last year with the preparation of the land and the installation of railroad tie borders, but this is the first year the garden will be grown. The project is being done with donated seeds and plants. Kurmis said the plethora of free labor at the jail means there should never be a single weed in the garden.  Lain said this is another example of how jail officials are trying to accomplish two goals -- getting free labor from inmates and teaching the inmates skills.  "There's stuff going on seven days a week, every day of the year," Kurmis said.  He said inmates do 90,000 man hours of food preparation and other labor each year inside the jail, and have done more than 10,000 hours worth of special projects since 2002.

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