The Gwinnett County Jail isn’t the place that anyone wants to find themselves. However, for those serving time they are using it to plant new hope.
Two years ago, the staff at the Gwinnett County Jail came up with the idea to start a garden.
“The recycle center in the county closed. That created a need to create a work detail for our female inmates,” said Deputy Shannon Volkodav with the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office.
With the Sheriff’s approval work began on the garden back in 2016. Over time, the garden has transformed into a lush area full of recycled materials, donated plants and organic produce.
It became known as the Fresh Start Garden. It runs most of the year.
“It will be this big one day and the next you will come out and they’re huge. How did that just happen,” mentioned Kara Hernandez, one of the inmates who works in the garden.
The garden has become a launching pad to help give fresh starts to inmates like Hernandez. 93 inmates have worked in the garden in the past year.
“It gets you out of the regular unit where you are just sitting there all day and have all of that stuff going on in your head and stressing out. I mean I think this is doing something productive,” Hernandez explained.
Volkodav said it also paves the way for new jobs once inmates finish serving their time.
“[They can work] at a local Home Depot or Lowes or working for a landscape company,” she said,
The food picked in the Fresh Start Garden is used in the jail's kitchen, reducing the cost of fresh produce.
With the help of the University of Georgia Extension Services the Fresh Start Garden yielded nearly 6,000 lbs. of fresh organic produce in 2017.
“It gives them opportunities that they can take advantage of when they are outside of the jail,” Volkodav said.
The sheriff’s office says it is in the process of expanding the fresh start garden. Inmates have started harvesting indoors.
A garden is also placed inside the mental health unit.