Friday, 21 September 2012

Agriculture program helps inmates grow new skills

By EDDIE DANIELS 

Jerry Don Haygood, in his grimy black and white uniform, was in no rush for the work day to end.

Haygood is an inmate at Land O' Lakes Jail. But between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., he's just another guy working the detention facility's farmland — raising pigs and cattle, as well as growing items in the hydroponic garden.

"First of all, it's a blessing," said Haygood, serving out the final weeks of a six-month sentence for violating terms of his probation on a 2005 grand theft conviction. "It gives us a different outlook on life. It helps you understand responsibility."

Haygood, 42, is one of several Pasco County inmates working in the Inmate Labor Section. That group is involved in the agricultural, janitorial and grounds maintenance programs at the jail and across the county.

At a time when everything seems to cost money, inmate labor has provided savings.

The programs, which help infuse food into the jail system, saved taxpayers $1.3 million in 2011. In 2010, that savings was close to $940,000.

Last year, 1,651 heads of bib lettuce, 1,450 heads of romaine lettuce and 823 cucumbers were cultivated, while 8,223 pounds of pork was produced.

The benefit has proven to be multifaceted. There's the food production and money savings. Then, to a certain extent, inmates are rehabilitated.

"We're not saying when they get out of here they're going to be working on a pig farm or they're going to be working in agriculture; however, from what they do out here maybe it gives them an opportunity," Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said. "That maybe when they are released, back in society, they have a work ethic that many of us were proud to grow up on, but for them they were never given in their lives."

Deputy Keith Adams has supervised the jail's agriculture programs for three years. Before one of his Hampshire pigs gave birth to at least 12 piglets Thursday, the jail had 243 total pigs. They're held in 20 pens and are between 275 and 300 pounds when they reach maturity.

It's a completely different life than his days as a booking deputy in Hernando County.

"I love it," he said. "I've been out here three years and I don't feel like I'm in corrections anymore. Every once in a while we have to do what we have to do, write reports and things like that, but it's not like it used to be in housing."

When Haygood is released Oct. 1, he's headed back to his Taylor County home to be with his girlfriend of 18 years and their twin daughters.

There, he'll apply his new skills.

"I am absolutely going back to the 40 acres and I'm going to set up a little thing and just start out small and work it," said Haygood, who hopes to secure a grant to assist him in cultivating that land.

"It's going to allow my children to have something, for them to carry on so they won't have to work so hard."
Original Article here

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