Monroe County jail's community garden maintained by inmates

Food grown, harvested, and donated to the local Monroe food bank came from an unlikely source: a community garden run by inmates at the nearby jail.

Crops from tomatoes and green peppers to beans, onions, cucumbers, and zucchini could all be spotted in the bustling garden. Nearby, two men in red jumpsuits were tilling the soil.

Nobody is forced to do the work, Sheriff Troy Goodnough said. Instead, there are people lining up to volunteer and help out.

"They love it. It gives them an opportunity to get outdoors and to work in the garden and to do something versus just walk around the rec yard," Goodnough said, "but the most important part, they get to consume the fruits of their labor."

They're literal fruits too. Watermelons and strawberries are also part of the crop yield. And it's not only them consuming it - just yesterday, more than 150 pounds of zucchini and cucumbers were donated. 

The Monroe County Inmate Facility houses low-level offenders as well as asylum seekers from the southern border. There, the individuals learn from each other while they grow invested in the gardening. 

It's also a win for the larger community since the program runs without any tax dollars to purchase the seeds or plant the crops.

Goodnough says the program is funded through a booking fee paid by each inmate admitted to the facility. A portion of it goes to state of Michigan training while the rest stays in the local area, including helping the garden.

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Just a pilot project right now, officials have seen a lot of success and hope to triple the size of the garden in the coming years.

"They're doing a great job," the sheriff says. "We're very proud of them and we're very happy with the product that they're producing and we're able to help those individuals in our community that are less fortunate."