Pennington County Jail inmates are getting out of their cells and giving back to the community in a positive way.
As part of a new project, started by the Pennington County Sheriffs Office last month, inmates are getting their hands dirty in a garden.
Inmates who demonstrate good behavior get to go outdoors, gain new skills, and help others.
"We started the concept of the garden to provide something productive for the inmates to do," said Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom. "They can sit around their cells and do nothing all day, or they can be out here doing something productive. It's an opportunity for them to give back to the community in a positive way."
For the first year of the garden, everything harvested will be donated to non–profit organizations in the community.
In the future, deputies heading the garden project are hopeful that the fruits and vegetables harvested will supply the food venders at the jail.
"That's what we hope," said Thom. "And we hope to expand it into the rest of this area."
All compost for the garden was donated by the city of Rapid City.
Two to six inmates are chosen to work in the garden three to four days a week.
"It makes you feel a lot better about yourself," said inmate Shayne Nelson. "It lets you feel the wind and the sun, a little bit of freedom."
Determining which inmates work in the garden is based on good behavior, previous work in the jail, and evaluation by a work release coordinator and program officer.
"All the inmates we bring out here are low risk offenders," said Thom. "And they're supervised while they're on site."
A garden has also been started at the Juvenile Services Center.