JCJC and county partner to expand inmate farm

The following is a press release from Jones County Junior College:

Last spring, the JCJC horticulture program and JCJC grounds superintendent, Margaret Strickland assisted Sheriff Alex Hodge with the germination of seeds used for the inmate garden on seven acres of leased property.

Plans are now underway to develop the county owned property, located near the detention center, to build a 10-acre area for livestock which will involve more JCJC students.

"We're enlarging our farming operations that we might better produce food for the jailed inmates," said Jones County Supervisor President, Andy Dial.  "It will give our inmates some experience in farming, to grow food they can eat, and reduce the responsibility of the county as far as money, and it will help with the education of our college students."

This unique partnership offers opportunities for both inmates and students.  JCJC sophomore agriculture science student, Jon Bishop envisions this project as an extension of his academic studies.  The Rosehill native already helps manage the family farm in Jasper County but likes the possibility of helping others farm.

"We'll figure out what will work for them," said Bishop.  "I just think this is a good opportunity for them to grow their own food, and it'll really teach them to work and develop work ethics."

The JCJC agriculture science students will be designing the inmate farm which will include a fence and barns.  Civil engineering technology students have been assigned to survey the property, and the meat processing and marketing students will harvest the cattle and pigs.  JCJC President Dr. Jesse Smith believes this is the continuation of a great partnership.

"It's a great opportunity for us to help the Jones County Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff's department to have our students design a working farm," said Smith.  "This is an excellent teaching tool to see how education, government, and the legal system fit together to make the community a success. It's going to be a great learning experience for our students, and it's going to be a great asset for Jones County."

Agriculture Science instructor Tim Ishee said the students will be working in the classroom to develop the plans; they won't be doing the manual labor.  "These kids are taking 18-20 hours as pre-vet, agriculture business and animal science majors.  They will be able to put on their resume' that they don't just have an education, they have a practical application, which is a big advantage," said Ishee.

In addition to the educational component for both the students and the inmates, Sheriff Hodge added this partnership will aid in the rehabilitation of prisoners.  He explained, "This is more than just saving the taxpayers money. We believe if we can change a person's mind, or change the way they think, then it will change the way they act, and we hope we won't see them back in the jail."

The summer harvest has proven productive according to Hodge.  The county saved $40-45,000 on the estimated 600-meals a day, by producing their own vegetables and filling up six deep freezers.   Hodge expects to be able to save even more money when they are able to harvest the few hogs and cattle they hope to raise.

"The inmates will be involved in every bit of this operation, so we're hoping this will inspire them to get involved in agriculture or other programs at JCJC, which in turn, turns out educated workers into the workforce," said Hodge.

The Jones County Sherriff's department is accepting donations to go towards the project, or if anyone would like to help, call the sheriff's department at 601-425-3147.  For more information on JCJC's programs go to the web site at www.jcjc.edu or call 601-477-4000.