Elmira/Corning Regional Airport


Inmate Garden Program Initiated

Written By: Tanja Rekhi
Inmate Garden Program Initiated

BATH (WENY) -- Kris Koerner is growing fresh produce to eat, but he's not doing it in the comfort of his own home. He's part of the Inmate Garden Program at the Steuben County Jail started by Sheriff David Cole.
     The program gives inmates the opportunity to grow crops right outside of the jail, surrounded by a fence and with supervision.
     Sheriff David Cole says it's all part of a plan to help inmates for life after being behind bars. He says the program will help them with being able to provide food for themselves and build self-esteem.
     Koerner  says a typical day in jail is, "slow." He says "to be out and be occupied makes it go by much faster."
     The 52-year-old inmate from Bath says substance abuse landed him in jail. He says this new program is changing his perspective.
     "I wouldn't do this drunk. I think anybody, like say for instance, someone came in and didn't have any skills from working. This would teach them a skill," says Koerner.
     Sheriff Cole says the county spends $15,000 a month on medications to help inmates dealing with things like depression. He thinks this program can help cut down on those costs.
     "I'm not a doctor, but I'm hoping that one of my programs will have some impacts on one of the inmates," says Sheriff Cole.
     Right now there are three beds set up with crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes. By the end of next Summer Sheriff Cole says he'd like to have 100 beds set up with lots of different vegetables.
     The vegetables the inmates grow will be used to make food inside the facility. It's also a way to cut costs.
     "All of the raised beds, the soil, and all the crops are paid for by inmate funds. It doesn't cost the county a nickel," says Sheriff Cole.
     So far, about 20 different inmates participate with the program. They also do community service for non-profits who need help with labor