Salt Lake County inmates growing produce to benefit themselves and community

SALT LAKE CITY — For the last decade, minimal risk inmates at the Salt Lake County Jail have had the opportunity to grow while serving time.

“As you’re serving your sentence, it’s an opportunity to spend time out in the fresh air, getting your hands dirty doing some things that are positive, that’ll have a positive impact," said Matt Dumont, Chief Deputy of Corrections at the jail. “They’re just not getting outside and doing work — they’re also learning and gaining some skills along the way.”

Dumont is referencing the master gardener and horticulture program that is offered to inmates who qualify.

"The inmates here at the jail actually grow all the produce," said Amanda Anderson, Office Coordinator for the Jail Programs Division. "I think it gives the inmates the opportunity to learn another skill, see a different aspect in their life ... be able to provide something and do something different with their life when they're out of jail."

Multiple greenhouses and hoop houses can be found on the jail grounds, along with a chicken coop and fields for growing produce outdoors.

“We have access to tools, all sorts of different things, and we get treated you know pretty much like equals out here, so it gives us an opportunity to have an experience that is positive for us," said Bryce Timpson, an inmate at the jail who is part of the program. “When I got out they had some job opportunities for us to look into and it’s just an opportunity to get outside of the jail and learn a new trade and just a good experience.”

Timpson also sells the produce at local farmer's markets year-round.

“All of the funds go back directly to the program," he said. "You know, I've spent a decent amount of time in jail and had many visits to the jail and this is the only time that I've been there that I've actually gotten out with hope of really being able to do better."

In 2019, 68 inmates graduated from the master gardener program.

“It’s given me a really positive outlook, and I think I’ve got a good head on my shoulders so I can move forward with my life, taking the right step in the right direction," said Joshua Frei, who was in the program but recently finished his sentence. “I’m outside, out in the open, it feels more like freedom than being incarcerated."

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