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Inmates Use Greenhouse to Better Lives

Inmates Use Greenhouse to Better Lives



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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Inmates at the county jail are turning to gardening to improve their lives. "It's therapeutic," Sheriff's Capt. Kim Cheshire said. "When I have a bad day, I go out in the yard and it's amazing how things change. You see that change in the inmates."

Three times a week since March, inmates Joel Carpenter, Ryan Cabey and Michael Leonard have tended to the plants in the jail's greenhouse, where there's an assortment of vegetables, melons and flowers.

The group has completed a master gardening program through Utah State University and will receive certification during a ceremony next month. "Its been nice to see them take pride in it to be excited about coming out and working," Sgt. Amber Sleight said. "It's giving them a new hobby ... instead of going back to old friends and activities."

When he completes his sentence next month, Carpenter said there's a chance he'll put his new skills to use at a nursery. "There's definitely money to be made," Carpenter said. "We've got to do something to keep us out of trouble."

Inmates say they use the greenhouse to escape their ordinary lives behind bars. "Just being away from inmate life," Cabey said. "We don't get much privacy. It feels good to be outdoors and to learn."

The inmates' work is paying off for jail workers. Officials held a Mother's Day sale for Sheriff's Office employees. Tomatoes have been sold to the Salt Lake County Jail and the Cache Valley Gardeners Market. "It's better than the stuff in here (the jail)," Cabey said.

Leonard said he wants to continue working at the greenhouse during the final year of his sentence. And officials said they hope to introduce new inmates to the program in the next few months. "A lot of the inmates are going to enjoy doing this," Carpenter said.

Gary Straquadine, Utah State's associate dean of agriculture, helped secure the $20,000 grant that paid for the greenhouse's construction. Straquadine and some inmates built the greenhouse last spring. Through product sales, Cheshire said he hopes the program will pay for itself in the future.

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Information from: The Herald Journal

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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