While many police and sheriff’s departments face layoffs and budget cuts, Ellis County, Texas Sheriff Johnny Brown has decided to be creative when it comes to feeding the inmates housed in his jail.
Sheriff Johnny Brown (on right) and Sgt. Bobby Cooper
No more canned peas, corn, or store-bought onions for his prisoners. No sir. It’s fresh vegetables or nothing. That’s right, Sheriff Brown decided to break ground on the back forty (actually, it’s more like three acres at the old jail farm) using inmate labor for the tilling, planting, and harvesting.
Sgt. Cooper is in charge of overseeing the farm operation
Each morning, a group of non-violent inmates stand in line to be shackled and transported the three miles to the farm where they put in a full day working the 188 rows of vegetables. Sheriff Brown hopes to save the taxpayers of his jurisdiction a lot of money by growing the crops. And, as a bonus, the inmates learn as they work. They’re also tired at the end of the day (less trouble), and the food they’ll consume after harvest will be much better for them than canned produce. Let’s face it, jail food is usually horrible.
An inmate examines English peas prior to planting
To further save money, Sheriff Brown even collects rainwater runoff from the roof at the jail.
The water is funneled into barrels and is then transported to the farm to water the gardens.
WFAA TV photos
Sheriff B.J. Barnes
*Jail farms are not a new concept. In fact, Guilford County N.C. Sheriff B.J. Barnes operates a massive prison farm—the only one in the state of North Carolina—consisting of 806 acres that’s manned by 134 inmates. Inmates even built the original dormitory at the farm using rocks found on the grounds.
Those of you who attended the 2010 Writers’ Police Academy will remember Sheriff Barnes from the Sunday debriefing panel. He was also responsible for most of the police equipment you toured and visited on Friday.
And, it was Sheriff Barnes’ team who provided the live demonstration of the school shooting/hostage situation.
This year, Sheriff Barnes has graciously offered to allow attendees of the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy an opportunity to tour the county jail. Ride-a-long’s with Guilford County deputies will also be offered as part of the WPA program.
Registration for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy is open. Reserve your spot today. Space is limited!