Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Buds bloom behind bars

And they're for sale; prisoners' project is fund-raiser

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Just in time for Easter, the public will be able to buy spring flowers grown in the Kenton County Jail.

        Daffodils, paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis will be sold in the lobby of the Kenton County Administration Building at 303 Court St., from 9 a.m. to noon on April 9-12. The plants will sell for $5 each, with all proceeds benefiting the jail's commissary fund.

        Three female state inmates — Tammy Owens, Martina Henson and Kim Leppert — grew the 36 plants as part of a pilot project by Jailer Terry Carl to help prisoners build self esteem and develop skills that they can use upon their release.

        “You always try to keep the in mates active,” said Patti Bates, the jail's director of administration. “In addition, this teaches them a skill and gives them a sense of accomplishment.”

        The women who grew the flowers are among the jail's Class D felons, or prisoners serving one to five years for crimes that are usually nonviolent. Throughout the county, Class D inmates provide labor for nearly a dozen county departments and agencies.

        The three prisoners started growing the flowers in the uniform storage area of the eighth-floor women's wing in late January.

        Money to purchase the bulbs came from the jail's commissary fund, Ms. Bates said.

        On Friday, the prisoners presented Kenton Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd with a sample of the flowers they had grown.

        Also recognized Friday were four male inmates who recently passed their GED tests.

        The inmates were the first to take high school equivalency exams since the jail began a cooperative effort with the Covington Board of Education to help prisoners earn GEDs, said Col. Rodney Ballard, the jail's chief deputy.

        Mr. Carl said he hopes to add other programs and projects, as time and space permit.

        “Something like growing a few flowers might seem like a simple little project, but it means a lot to (the prisoners),” the jailer said. “It gives them self esteem and a little self pride. In the future, we hope to see these projects grow.”


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