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Clare County Jail garden provides food for inmates

7/9/2013 7:15 AM
By Associated Press

HARRISON, Mich. (AP) — Nerrance Conner once worked in his grandmother's garden, but Corey Scott is strictly city.

Conner and Scott, both of Detroit, were among the trusties at the Clare County Jail recently tending to the many plants in the jail garden, according to the Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant reports ( http://bit.ly/19ED68L ).

Conner and Scott are both inmates who are serving their sentences in the Clare County Jail because of a rental contract with Wayne County.

Under the watchful eye of corrections and jail officials, they aerated soil, weeded and did other tasks in the large garden, located behind the jail and sheriff's department in Harrison.

While Conner is being released soon and won't be around to taste the fresh vegetables from the garden, Scott is in jail until Sept. 11, and will eat some of the dishes prepared by the head cook in the jail.

Canteen Services, the food service provider at the jail, uses one head cook and jail trusties for meal preparation, Corrections Officer Rick Craven said.

In addition to feeding inmates, vegetables from the garden will also go to the local soup kitchen.

Scott and Conner like doing garden duty, one of the few tasks assigned to trusties outside the jail.

Other trusties do kitchen and laundry work, but Scott and Conner like getting garden and garage assignments for the fresh air.

Fresh air is just one benefit to the trusties who work in the garden.

The large area is planted with tomatoes, beans, zucchini, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, corn, potatoes, onions and cabbage. Not only does it provide food for inmates, it also gives those given trusty status a chance to learn more about growing their own food, Sheriff John Wilson said.

"Many who work in the garden have never had one of their own," Wilson said.

There has been a garden near the Clare County Jail for many years, at first in an area that used to be a Little League field, Craven said.

Now it is in a lot near the jail garage and is large enough to produce plenty of vegetables for inmates.

When the garden was moved to its current location, fertile, black soil was brought in, and the land was tilled, Craven said.

Seeds for the plants come from Canteen.

"Everything they grow in here they will use," Craven said. "When everything has matured, it's used in the kitchen.

"They utilize it to the fullest to supplement the food. The inmates enjoy it."

While the number of inmates changes, there are typically about 180 in the jail, Craven said.

Craven also said inmates who tend the garden do a good job, and that the head cook prepares a variety of dishes, including fresh salsa.

"Anybody would love to have a garden like this in their yard," Craven said.

There is even a scarecrow wearing the black and white striped jail clothing reserved for inmates charged with the most serious crimes.

Whether it works or is a joke, Craven isn't sure, but the plants in the garden are hearty and don't appear to have been a meal for any wildlife.

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Information from: Morning Sun, http://www.themorningsun.com/


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