CHESHIRE — “I want to spend my time positively. I like to be able to do something with my hands so I can look back and see what I’ve done — actually watch while I’m here, something I am proud of,” Gallia County Work Release inmate Josh Saunders said recently about the garden being tended by the inmates at the center located in Cheshire. “It’s just something positive to do, and it helps people out. I have a big heart, and I like helping others.”
Saunders, along with fellow inmate, Harvey Brown, are among the most dedicated to the small patch of earth and the variety of vegetables growing there, and, according to the pair, the garden has given them an outlet for their frustrations and a chance to think during their time at the work release center.
“It’s given me time to just come outside and think, think about life,” Brown said. “If you get upset, just come outside and take it out on the dirt.”
Saunders agreed and stated that he hopes more of those housed at the work release center get involved with the project in the future as a means by which to learn and to think positively.
“It gives you time, especially to sit and think about what you’ve done — ,” Saunders said.
” — and the path that you’re going down and the path that you should be going down,” Harvey added.
According to Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning, the garden has not only been positive for the inmates, but will also help to cover food costs at the work release center.
“It’s going to offset the costs of some of the food and, plus, it gives any of the inmates that might not have a job opportunity to come out and work in the garden and interact with some of the staff on how to do that,” Browning said. “Honestly, a lot of the inmates are already familiar with gardening, and it really is a good way to channel some energy.”
The work release center opened in December 2010 and has been an alternative to housing non-violent offenders, helping to reduce the jail population and save the sheriff’s office funding on transportation, medical and out-of-county housing costs. Inmates are charged a fee during their stay at work release and are held to strict guidelines. While being monitored, many are released each day to work and those individuals who do not have jobs can be utilized in such programs as the very successful litter clean-up program that has removed tons of debris from problem dump sites throughout the county since it’s inception.
According to Browning, the garden is just another positive program at the work release center that he hopes to expand upon in the future.
“The alternative to having this building and programs like this is you warehouse people in jails, and that just doesn’t seem like it’s gone very well — just that option alone. We’re glad to have the opportunity to have the center and have programs like this. We hope to be able to expand on it. In the future maybe we will have it a little bit larger,” Browning said.
Reportedly, the majority of the starter plants were donated to the work release center by Mitch’s Greenhouse in Gallipolis, and Browning further reported that any excess produce that is not utilized to feed the inmates will be donated to a local food pantry.
“The garden is just another tool that we have to not only occupy time, but also make it constructive and show them that when they do get out they can do something that’s very productive,” Browning said.