Inmates Go From Confined Walls to the Gardens
08/03/2012
Your4State.com

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Washington County, MD - Some inmates are going outside of their confined walls to garden. Inmates from MCTC say this job gives them peace outside the jail and their work is not only helping them, but the Washington Community, too.

They are gardeners spending hours picking up vegetables and planting seeds, but at the end of their day they take on a different role: paying time inside the fenced off compounds they call home.

"It's not like a regular institutional job. It's actually very different," says Jason Cook. "You learn something from it and it gives you a piece of mind."

Cook is one of the handful of inmates from the Maryland Correctional Training Center picked to help run a garden seven days a week, a job that requires inmates to dig in the soil and work together.

"We definitely all work as a team," says Cook. "We do everything together. We come out and evaluate the situations every day and see what needs to be done. We all play our parts."

The program started a few years ago as a way to help lower costs for produce for the prison, but expanded for people in Washington County. The food is donated to food pantries like Food Resources. In the past two weeks the prison has already donated 1,200 pounds of food.

"That's the biggest part of it," says John Klepetka. "We're giving back to the community. It makes us proud and hopefully makes our family proud."

The inmates start work around 9 a.m. until it gets too hot to work and they come back later at night to water the plants. It's a job that takes not only hard work, but a green thumb.

Most of the inmates had never gardened before and had to be taught how to plant, pick and water. It's not the only lesson the inmates learned while being outside.

"I've learned that I've made a lot of mistakes, a lot of bad decisions and need to sit more before doing things in my life that bring me down," says Cook.

Lessons that they are learning while helping people in their community.