Inmates use greenhouses to produce food |

Inmates use greenhouses to produce food

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

On the day they were locked up some prisoners in the Summit County Jail probably didn’t expect to spend part of their incarceration growing food for their fellow inmates.

Several inmates are participating in the new gardening program operated by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, which allows non-violent offenders training in horticulture and landscaping. Deputies expect the program to generate food for inmates and plants for landscaping county facilities. Inmates will not compete with local food producers by selling their vegetables on the open market.

The prisoners are raising vegetables, flowers and other plants inside two large greenhouses behind the jail, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said.

"The inmate greenhouse program provides these men and women a positive alternative to sitting idle in jail watching television or playing cards," Edmunds said in a prepared statement. "Inmates need to be involved in something positive and proactive that can teach a skill or educate. The greenhouse gives them the opportunity to take pride in something."

But Sheriff’s Office officials must make sure the program sustains itself. Utah State University has offered free classes in gardening and farming to inmates and corrections staff, and all of the costs associated with the program have come from money from inmates.

Plants and seeds were donated by Park City Nursery and no utilities are needed for powering the greenhouses, said Detective Ron Bridge, a spokesman for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

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Officials estimate that a similar program in Utah County has saved the Sheriff’s Office there more than $30,000 per year on food costs for inmates, Bridge said.

But it is unclear if the program will save Summit County money.

Part of the focus of the gardening program is also to provide skills that inmates could use to get a job when they are released from jail, he said.