Roscommon County Jail Sprouts Garden Raised By Inmates - Northern Michigan's News Leader

Roscommon County Jail Sprouts Garden Raised By Inmates

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"Our commitment to coming out here and growing this was fulfilling."

A once-barren, unused space in the Roscommon County Jail sprouted to life, bringing inmates out of their cells and into the garden.

It started just a few months ago with the jail administrator and a fresh idea, allowing inmates to grow their own food in a garden within the jail walls.

Everything used to build the garden was donated by the community.

9&10 News / Fox 32’s Cody Boyer met the inmate who helped build the garden into what it is now.

He has more details.

"Come out here. Have lunch out here. It gets me out of the cell,” says James Pitawanakwat, an inmate in the Roscommon County Jail.

It began with a simple, green-thumbed idea, putting inmates like James to work.

“One day, the lieutenant came to me and said do you know anything about gardening?” Pitawanakwat says. “I said I think I know a little bit."

“This was just a break area,” says Lt. Laurie Beck, Jail Administrator. “Dead grass, is what it was."

Lt. Beck says the thought came to her after seeing what inmates were eating.

“You see the food that they are served every day in jail and there is not a lot of fresh produce on their trays,” Lt. Beck says. “I figured why not get them out here, let them grow the food."

"My learning came from my grandmother,” Pitawanakwat says. “She would tell me to become one with your garden."

James is constantly weeding, constantly harvesting, and constantly contemplating.

On the side, the space has given him a place to study for his GED…which he passed in two weeks.

“It’s very troubling to be here, to be locked in that cell every day,” Pitawanakwat says. “And this gives me the opportunity to come out here and reach therapy, to find that therapy. It's very therapeutic to be out here."

Just looking around over this small area, there's not just one crop here.

You have tomatoes, you have radishes and many others, including beans.

You have other things out here and it's all underneath the sky, outside, all for access to healthier food.

“The other day, we had salad, and I had seen these radishes in this salad,” Pitawanakwat says. “That was a reward, itself."

...A reward that keeps on giving -- and planned again for next year.

“We already have some other ideas that we are going to throw around and try growing some other different kinds of vegetables, maybe even some fruits in here,” Lt. Beck says.

“It puts balance and harmony into my character, of who I am,” Pitawanakwat says. “It gives us that opportunity to strive a little bit more so when we get back out into the community, we can take these skills that we learned here and apply them to our lives out there, as well."