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HILL COUNTY

Inmates growing own food saves county thousands

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HILL COUNTY -

A new garden at the Hill County Jail could save thousands of dollars in taxpayer money each year.

The 200 foot fenced in garden at the jail in Hillsboro lets inmates grow their own food. For hours each day, around four people who have committed non-violent crimes, tend to the soil and plant seeds. They grow multiple lines of vegetables and once they've grown, the inmates will pick them and eat them.

"The main thing is it just gets the inmates out and puts them to work," Sheriff Michael Cox said.

The county says this could save them thousands of dollars each year on food costs, but it also benefits inmates. For hours each day, prisoners with minor crimes work outside, in the field.

Christopher Stephenson says his favorite part is just being outside, but he also says they take a lot of pride in their garden. He calls it their home away from home.

"Inmates can be more than what we're portrayed as some of us got good hearts and we can be trusted because we're locked up we can do some productive things," Stephenson said.

"These guys can come out here and learn a trade and they take a trade out with them in a real world and it really helps them out and gives them confidence," chief deputy Rodney Watson said.

Watson also says working outside improves discipline problems inside. Getting fresh air, inmates have better attitudes. They're also more tired at the end of the day and don't have as much energy to fight.

"They get out here and work a full day they're too tired to argue or fight so it works really well for all of us," Watson said.

Watson also says the garden could give inmates skills to use outside of jail. That way when do they get released, they don't come back. That combined with the food costs saves the county thousands of dollars each year.

The Sheriff's Office did provide a breakdown of how they could save money on food. Here's their early projections.

1st Quarter projections:

Onions cost- $375.48

Seed cost- $19.20

Lettuce cost- $240.00

Seed cost- $16.80

English Peas- $91.30

Seed cost- $1.80

Potatoes- $564.30

Seed cost- $18.96

Carrots- $183.75

Seed cost- $1.80

Broccoli- $89.43

Seed cost- $13.60

Cabbage- $148.80

Seed cost- $13.60

Total savings for 1st Quarter- $1,607.30

*The Sheriff's Office believes they can grow vegetables nine months out of the year.

*These are just first of many vegetables to be planted. Others include tomatoes, okra, peppers and squash.

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