Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown intends to see to it that his department is the best steward of the county’s funds it can possibly be.

Part of his initiative includes the planting of a garden at the new sheriff’s office complex under construction on a 100-acre tract just a couple of miles east of U.S. Highway 287 on Farm-to-Market 878.

The 3-acre garden, which will be planted in two varieties of onions, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and other garden vegetables, will serve several purposes.

“The garden will be worked by inmates and they will eat what they grow,” Brown said. “The food from the garden will also be made available to the needy and the elderly, but our first and foremost purpose of the garden is to feed the inmates.”

Brown assures the county that all inmates who work the garden will wear leg irons and be supervised by an armed guard at all times.

“With the exception of inmates bound for Texas Department of Corrections, the program is strictly voluntary and not forced on any inmate,” he said, saying the program will include both male and female inmates but they will work the garden separately.

Inmates who work the garden and help with county commissioners will be non-maximum security inmates, class A and B misdemeanor violators.

“One of my goals for this program for this garden is to reduce the cost of housing and feeding inmates,” the sheriff said.

Both TDC-bound inmates and county inmates can earn “good days” – time off for working 40-hour work weeks. The work of the approximately 60 Ellis County inmates includes not only the garden, but working for county commissioners and picking up trash on the sides of the roads.

“This program helps us with management, because the inmates come in after a day’s work and want to shower and go to bed and it keeps discipline in the jail to a minimum,” Brown said.

Brown hopes to utilize inmates who have skills to put funds back into the county’s coffers.

“We have had inmates that are skilled carpenters and welders – why not utilize them to build products that can be sold and the proceeds being put back into the county?” he asks.

With the programs set in place, Brown believes keeping inmates busy will cut down on costs to the county.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.