McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

June 20, 2013

How does his garden grow?

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — “Offenders Feeding Offenders” the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s garden program is in full bloom for the third year.

Sheriff Joel Kerns said the garden, which stretches seven acres from West Street to Electric Avenue, is the biggest garden of its kind in the state of Oklahoma.

The program was started three years ago as a way to put inmates to work, save money on food costs and help the inmates get moved out of the jail a little faster, according to Kerns.

“This year has been the best yet,” he said.

“We’ve had lots of rain.”

He said there are several benefits to the program.

“The benefits of being able to get the inmates outside to work are just as good as the food we produce,” Kerns said.

“The inmates work all day long and at the end of the day, they are tired and want to rest,” he said.

“It takes the fight out of ‘em.”

He said the program saves taxpayer’s dollars by feeding the inmates six portions of vegetables a day from the garden.

He said the program also helps the inmates move through the system a little faster because the trustees who are selected to work in the garden, are given two days time for every one day they work.

He said everything used for the garden has been donated by the Choctaw Nation, local merchants such as Papa’s Market, McClendons and Lowes and local residents.

Kerns said this year so far the onions, radishes and squash and peppers have been great.

“One of the best things is the raw veggies,” Kerns said.

“We make veggie sticks and they are real good.”

Meanwhile, the sheriff invited those who are interested can come by and see the garden which is located next the Pittsburg County Criminal Justice Center, 1210 N. West St. McAlester.

“People are always welcome to come take a look,” Kerns said.”

“You can see some of it on West Street but you can see it all from Electric Avenue.”

For more information call 918-423-5858.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.