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
Serving time, produce
Inmate gardeners cultivate plot ... veggie, that is ...
BY KEN KOSKY
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