MISSISSIPPI (WMC) - A group of inmates at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman will harvest 8,000 pounds of tomatoes by the end of May through a special rehabilitation program.
About 15-18 minimum or medium custody inmates who are within two to five years of release are allowed into the program. Preference is given to inmates who are high school graduates or have an equivalent education and with no discipline issues.
The inmates spend about seven hours per day tending to 710 tomato plants.
Greenhouses were revived by the Mississippi Department of Corrections last year to help inmates gain new skills to be used after they are released from prison. The tomatoes are being used to feed inmates and sell.
"This is an excellent example of how we are working within our existing resources to help provide inmates with meaningful rehabilitation activities that will hopefully benefit them after their release," said Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall. "This is a win-win for our state and the participating inmates."
Ronald Collins Jr. said he expects to use what he has learned in the program when he gets out of prison in November.
"Before I came here, being just a country boy, I just thought it was about growing and picking tomatoes," Collins said. "But I have learned there is so much more to it. You have to know about mixing the right chemicals for the fertilizer, shaping and pruning the plants correctly. There is so much that goes into operating a greenhouse. I plan to start my own business growing tomatoes and put these skills to use."