It's the time of year where grocery stores everywhere are selling pumpkins for the fall season. Inmates at the Summit County Jail are also embracing the fall spirit. They have been giving out pumpkins grown at the jail to those in the community in need.
The pumpkins are just one of the crops that inmates at the jail grow in the county garden in the back of the jail, according to Summit County Sheriff's Capt. Justin Martinez. The garden has been operational for the past five years.
"Many of these inmates may have never dug their hands in the dirt," Martinez said. "This [program] gives them a chance to learn a skill, and they get to see the fruits of their labor."
Inmates have grown pumpkins at the jail the last few years, and the program is headed up by Sgt. Andrew Wright. Also grown and harvested are carrots, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, spinach and onions, which are used for the inmates' meals.
Wright said inmates take pride in growing the pumpkins, and Martinez added that it's because those who are in charge of the pumpkins are taking on a responsibility.
"[Inmates] have to actually earn the right to do this, so they don't want it taken away from them," Martinez said. " it being a privilege, they become the leaders in their individual cells."
The pumpkins were given to the National Abilities Center, the Peace House and a local Park City day care. Wright said the skills learned by inmates through programs such as this help to prepare them for life outside of jail.
"They're human beings they're people who have made mistakes," Wright said. "This gives them a chance to say, 'While I was incarcerated, this is what I did, and this is what's prepared me for [society]."
Wright said that many inmates say they are going to try to find jobs when they get out based on the skills they learned while incarcerated. Martinez said he hopes the program helps to cut down on recidivism. If inmates break any rules in the jail, they lose the privilege of heading up their individual programs, he
"They want to stay clean, they want to do it right so they can continue to go outside and be a part of a program that gives them privileges instead of just being locked down in a cell 24/7," Martinez said.
Wright said the Sheriff's Office also wants to bring back the inmate worker program, which lost funding because of recent budget cuts. The program employs inmates, who are paid a small wage to do jobs such as painting lines on roads and landscaping county properties, which Wright said saves the county "thousands of dollars."
Martinez said inmates have grown even more pumpkins this year, and will be looking for more individuals and organizations to donate them to.
"We've got so many pumpkins, and if [the inmates] come up with more next year, we need to find more avenues to get rid of these," Martinez said. "For those who can't afford it and for those who are in dire need, those are the ones who we really want to reach out to."
Martinez added that the Sheriff's Office does the best it can to rehabilitate inmates to give them an easier transition back to society. The pumpkin program, he said, is just one of many ways to achieve this end.
"If [inmates] are successful on the inside and learn a new skill, they can be just as successful on the outside," Martinez said. "Our biggest goal is, through these programs, to have them be better when they leave than when they came in."
The Sheriff's Office encourages anyone who would like pumpkins to contact Sgt. Andrew Wright at (435) 615-3686.