For Immediate Release
February 16, 2000
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
or Joel Anderson
bureau chief of food services
TALLAHASSEE - The Department of Corrections is embarking on an ambitious plan for inmates to become more self-sufficient by growing many of their own fruits and vegetables, eventually saving millions in tax dollars and encouraging rehabilitation.
The self-sufficiency food program would vastly expand DOC's current modest program from a few hundred to several thousand acres of cultivated farmland, all located on prison grounds throughout the state. The goal is to increase the number of inmates growing their own food to ten percent of the inmate population - approximately 6,800 inmates.
"This program will be a tremendous benefit to the prison system and to taxpayers," said Secretary of Corrections Michael W. Moore. "In addition to saving money, it will also teach inmates work skills and increase rehabilitation." Moore implemented a highly successful similar program when he was director of the South Carolina prison system from 1995 to 1998.
Potatoes, onions, cabbage, beans and watermelons will be the primary crops inmates will plant and harvest. A defunct 75-acre orange grove at Martin Correctional Institution in Indiantown will also be revived and turned into a vocational program for inmates interested in citrus cultivation. The ultimate goal of the self-sufficiency food program is to locate one large farming operation at one prison in each of the DOC's seven statewide service center areas (see attached map).
In the first year of food program expansion, savings to taxpayers are expected to more than double. Last fiscal year, 1,000 inmates worked on 480 acres of gardens. Had DOC purchased the food items grown by inmates, it would have cost taxpayers $350,000. This fiscal year, more than 825 acres will be planted. Prisons in the following counties will experience the largest expansions: Bradford (100 additional acres); DeSoto (150 additional acres); Gilchrist (60 additional acres); Polk (20 additional acres); and Hamilton (15 additional acres). DOC expects taxpayer savings of approximately $825,000 (about $1,000 per acre).
The number of inmates involved in farming projects is expected to increase by 25% this year. Some will be involved in gardening efforts every day, while others will work in the gardens as needed. Inmates will be responsible for virtually all planting, harvest and crop maintenance. Inmates at Avon Park Correctional Institution in Polk County will also have the opportunity to work in a hen house, where there are 900 hens laying eggs.
In addition, DOC is in the process of purchasing horses for a field force of specially trained correctional officers who would supervise the inmates in the food program. Since selected close-custody inmates will have a chance to grow their own food, they require greater supervision. The mounted correctional officers would be able to easily supervise these inmates as they are working in the field. DOC plans to begin the mounted patrols with a force of ten horses costing no more than a total of $15,000. So far, five horses have been purchased.
Expansion of the inmate food program will yield both short-term and long-term benefits. It will produce immediate taxpayer savings, while allowing inmates to gain skills that will help them become productive members of society upon their release from prison. Attached are several charts illustrating the program's growth so far. Pictures of some of our farming projects are also available for download on our web site at www.dc.state.fl.us under press releases.