With the dry, hot weather taking over the majority of this summer, very few gardens look as lush as the one at the Mercer County Detention Facility. However, the garden has benefited from the work of several amateur gardeners with little else to do during the day but to keep care of it.
"It helps break up our time a little bit. It gives us something to do makes our days go faster," said Eric Richards, an inmate trustee at the jail.
Without the garden, the most exciting part of Richards' day is playing cards.
"If you give them something to do, there's less horsing around," said Sgt. Mark Heinl, Mercer County Detention Facility.
That means less difficulty for corrections officers inside the facility. However, the garden also teaches the guys a skill they can use after their release.
"We learned a lot about gardening. My grandma she grows a garden every year. So I can help her with it," said Tyler Weitz, inmate trustee.
the jail has about 12 trustees who do several odd jobs, including gardening.
The inmates do all of the watering, weeding, and harvesting needed to grow the produce. The vegetables are used in the jail kitchen.
So far, vegetables from the garden have been used to make salads and salsa for the entire jail population.
Sgt. Heinl says he doesn't have an estimate, but he is sure the garden has saved the jail in food costs.
As for the inmates, each hour of work, earns them points they can use to buy snacks. The hours worked are also presented to area judges who have the final say in granting early release.
But while they are behind bars, the trustees earn something the other inmates often miss-- plenty of fresh air and sunshine.