The three gardens for the jail is probably the best endeavor for inmates to pick up.
On any given day when the weather is fair and easy to be in, one can find inmates of the detention center outside of the jail, tilling the soil, and harvesting the fresh fruits and vegetables that come from the hard work and the sweat of a man/woman’s brow.
“The idea wasn’t novel by any means,” Sheriff Jeff Shaver of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department said. “Other facilities like ours had gardens. We just decided it would be only right to have one of our own. So now we have three.”
The fruits and vegetables are not only grown for the therapeutic value, but also to feed the center’s population. This of course saves money in the long run for the county, freeing up tax payers’ hard-earned money for improvements to the facility. This reporter got to taste one of the wonderful tomatoes grown in the garden, and can attest to the fact that the fruit tasted like a bite from the heavenly sun. If this is rehabilitation for inmates, then the occupation given for it is truly inspiring.
“The problem for most inmates in any facility is that there is too much idle time,” Shaver reminds the public. “When inmates have little to do, and are continuously in an enclosed place for too long with a bunch of other inmates, aggressions can become self-evident. We here at the detention center know that the key to any inmate’s peace is happiness. Or some semblance thereof. A garden project helps them to do hard work and see the results of their labor. The key is to keep them occupied.”
Economically speaking, the Sheriff told this reporter that on a grand scale the gardens don’t really do a whole lot for the county. Due to lack of space, the self-reaping benefits of a garden are minimized to the ability to grow vegetables and fruits to replace costs on probably the highest priced commodity items in a grocery store.
“We save about 50-60 dollars a week due to our gardens,” Shaver said with a smile. “That’s money the taxpayers save in the long run.”
Speaking in long-term goals, the sheriff has some very specific ideas for the future of the garden. From securing larger portions of land, to possible deals with the military, venues are there if the timing is right.
“We want to be able to have larger fields to work on,” Shaver said. “This gives more inmates better opportunities to get out of the jail and be productive with their time, while providing a service. As far as the gardens go now, we have a tiller that does alright. For a larger piece of land, however, we’d need something that does a better job with the land. The military has a tractor we’re working on getting here in Cherokee County. This would of course give a better way to clear land quicker, which in turn allows for better benefits all around.”
The gardens located by the old Advocacy Center, on top of the soil the old jail used to rest upon, and beside the jail look productive, and the vegetables and fruits are certainly ripening. With enough time, this endeavor could give the detention center a staple for benefits when concerned with all around. If anything, the gardens will continue to provide the inmates with plenty of opportunities to find out why hard work, peace, and labor benefit compared to a life of crime win every time.