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A corker of an idea from two counties west

July 25, 2013 at 10 p.m.

Our neighbor two counties to the west, Smith County, has formulated a program for its jail inmates that not only serves taxpayers, but makes life a little better for inmates, too. And maybe, just maybe, it helps teach them something, too.

Prisoners in county jail can take part in tending a four-acre garden that grows fresh vegetables of all sorts, which are then used to help feed inmates with the vegetables left over - and there are a great many left over - being sent to the East Texas Food Bank as well as other charitable enterprises.

Some of those prisoner-grown vegetables could even be showing up in Marshall as those being given away by Mission Marshall.

The inmates who volunteer for the program greatly enjoy what they do, both because it allows them to leave their cells and because growing a garden is producing something useful. After all, they are in jail because they have taken actions that were destructive either to them, society, or both. This is the reverse.

Obviously Harrison County is much smaller than Smith County and the county jail population is likely to be smaller by about the same ratio. Tending a four-acre garden is probably not within our ability to do.

Also, our county has a program that sends inmates to do work for the public good now and it is a valuable service. That program also often saves tax dollars or at least dollars that might have been spent by a non-profit group.

We would not suggest undertaking any project that would interrupt the ability to do that.

But a garden is not a bad idea, either and perhaps it can be kept in mind. To do that, of course, some decently fertile land will have to be found either that the county already owns or that a citizen allows to be used. Perhaps someone will step up and make such an offer.

Any program that can be devised that will help inmates go from dysfunctional lives to productive ones has merit, particularly when doing it benefits taxpayers as opposed to costing them money.

Gardening does not exactly teach a skill but doing tending to one properly is absolutely hard work as anyone who has ever done it can attest. Four acres is one big garden and seems more than Harrison County can chew but one a fraction of that size might be manageable.

It is an idea worth consideration. Kudos to the Smith County jail for making this work so well for all involved.



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