Jailhouse farms feed Florida inmates, guards

Feeding prisoners can cost big bucks, so one county in Florida has found a way to save taxpayers money.

The Marion County Sheriff's Office has started four inmate labor farms across the Ocala area, reports. About two dozen nonviolent offenders provide the labor, while deputies oversee daily operations.

"The inmate farm came about as a way of keeping the overall costs of inmate services down," said Sgt. David Hurst, who helps run the farm.

The farm provides enough food to last for months while also instilling work ethic in inmates.

"It's a seven-day-a-week operation," Hurst said. "It's year round."

The program was created in 2000. It cuts the cost of each inmate's meal to about 54 cents -- a third less than the price paid by some similar-sized jails.

"We have cantaloupe, cucumber, squash, green beans, and we're growing a section of peanuts as well," Hurst said.

The crops are harvested, cleaned and prepared; some are cooked, others are kept in one of the jail's freezers, according to

The food eventually ends up on inmates' and guards' plates. The program helps feed 1,500 people daily.

"We try to utilize everything that comes in from the farm," Lt. Richard Byrd said.

The Sheriff's Office has teamed up with the University of Florida to provide inmate labor for their university's research facility in Citra. Offenders work with the animals and harvest crops.

The Sheriff's Office also gives civic groups and community groups tours of the farm.

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