Grundy County inmates' personal growth through gardening - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Grundy County inmates' personal growth through gardening

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A new gardening program for inmates in Grundy County is providing skills to help them work their way back into society more smoothly.

"It's just really made me stop and think about things," says April Anderson.

Tuesday is her last day of a two-year sentence. She ended up here as a result of a drug charge and she says the gardening program has helped her grow beyond the jail walls. 

"When you're sitting back there day after day after day not doing nothing but looking at a wall, your time goes by pretty slow," says Anderson. "But when we're out here our days go by real quick."

For her it's not just about enjoying occasional sunshine and fresh air, but growing healthy relationships and habits. 

"Helps us all work together and have each other's backs on things," adds Anderson.

The program started in 2015 with two greenhouses at the old facility. The money came from a grant from the South Cumberland Community Fund. When the new detention center was opened in 2016 the greenhouses were moved there, and the off-site garden was established thanks to a partnership with the Grundy County Health Department and the AG-Extension office.

Sheriff Clint Shrum says the program has been successful in rehabilitating the inmates.

"We want it to be something that offers them a sense of responsibility and accountability to help them recover when they get out," says Shrum.

The program is voluntary and inmates who participate earn credits toward reduced sentences. Interested inmates are chosen based on their charges, how long they're serving, and if they've been on good behavior.

Right now around ten male and female inmates rotate shifts, working in the garden about five days a week. Most of the vegetables are used in the jail's cafeteria and some are made available to the public for free.

Shrum says the ultimate goal is to keep the inmates from becoming repeat offenders.

"We don't want them to come back to jail," Shrum emphasizes. "So if we can help them get the skills they need to make it out there, then that's what we want to do."

Anderson is sorry for her crime but she's looking forward to getting out and getting her life back on track.

"I'd like to thank the Sheriff for giving me the come out here," says Anderson, holding back tears.

According to Shrum grant funding has expired, but seeds are replanted and materials recycled in order to save money and keep the program going.

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