The Steuben County Jail is offering a new program aimed at helping inmates 'grow.' It's called the Inmate Garden Program. It helps the jail's bottom line, helps the inmates build a better future and helps the jail build a solid relationship with the community. YNN's Katie Husband explains why it's a win-win situation for all involved.
BATH, N.Y. -- Inmates inside the Steuben County Jail are taking advantage of a new opportunity to get more out of their time locked up.
"Boredom and you know, nothing to keep your mind busy and occupied and it's too much time to think," said David Dodge, a Steuben County Jail inmate.
A program launched by Steuben County Sheriff David Cole is putting that extra time to good use. It's called the Inmate Garden Program. It is exactly what it sounds: The inmates, growing vegetables. But the growth potential doesn't end there. It extends to the jail's bottom line.
"Steuben County spends $15,000 a month on the average, for psychotropic drugs, mental health drugs for inmates and I think, since I came back to the jail, the corrections unit, a lot of the inmates basically sit around all day watching Jerry Springer on TV all day," said Steuben County Sheriff David Cole.
"To me, it's kind of like, you can let your mind wander as you're working along," said Dodge.
David Dodge has been in the county jail for a little more than a month. He has two or three months left. He and more than a dozen others have been planting tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and various other vegetables. But for Dodge, he's planting seeds for his own growth.
"I enjoy working, so that's something that makes me kind of connect with a thing that I would do on the outside. So it kind of keeps me away from being locked up, I guess," said Dodge.
But the opportunities don't end here outside in the gardens. They actually offer another course inside to help the inmates.
"We're doing certificate courses through BOCES to give these guys in jail, it makes their time go faster and it gives them something to occupy themselves and helps them sleep at night and maintain," said Captain Chris Hand of the Steuben County Sheriff's Department.
Hand says it's a certificate they can use to try to gain employment when they get out, in hopes of never returning.
"If you didn't have the skills already, it can give you some skills or it could give you some ideas of fruits and vegetables and all that stuff that you could take to the outside," said Dodge.
They plan to build about two dozen more garden beds by this fall.
Sheriff Cole expects to see a decrease in medical and food expenses by the next year or two. This program does not cost the taxpayers any money. It's funded through the inmate commissary fund.