CHICAGO (CBS)–A Cook County program for jail inmates is infusing a positive habit in prisoners that also adds a boost to Chicago’s restaurant industry.
The Urban Garden Initiative lets inmates get outside and put their “green thumbs” to good use by growing produce served in many of Chicago’s thousands of restaurants.
Inmate Paul Rowsey has been jailed since March for a drug charge. He signed up for the program on the first day, and is one of 15 inmates who spend their days outdoors gardening.
The Urban Gardening Initiative lets Cook County inmates grow and harvest produce for local restaurants in Chicago.
Rowsey is currently the only inmate allowed to use the gardening machines and is doing so well that he has an employment prospect lined up for when he’s released.
“I’m away from my family, so you know, so it keeps my mind out of that…then it gives me something…because I got a job interview when I go home, so it gives me something to look forward to,” Rowsey said.
The inmates grow and harvest fresh, locally-grown produce like kale, swiss chard, roma tomatoes, corn and peppers.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says the program is a win-win for restaurants and inmates.
“They love working here, they love being outdoors,” Dart said. “There’s nothing they don’t love about it, so the more I can expand it, the more people that can work in the program.”
CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports no tax dollars are used to fund the program.