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Work farm helps inmates, Lawrence

Apr. 04, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

IRONTON -- With planting time fast approaching, the Lawrence County work farm will be back in business at two separate locations this year, said Common Pleas Judge D. Scott Bowling.

The Proctorville-Rome Township Cemetery Board has agreed to lease a parcel to the county for $1 a year to allow community service workers to grow corn, potatoes and green beans primarily for prisoners at the Lawrence County Jail. "We want things the jail can use and easily process," Bowling said.

The county started a work farm project last year in Hamilton Township. This year, the county has two sites, one of six-to-eight acres in Rome Township and the other of three or four acres near the Lawrence County Group Home along Ohio 93 north of Ironton, Bowling said.

"Looking back, last year was a learning curve for everyone involved," Bowling said. "We're looking to have a community service program at a lower cost to the county. I think the program has been a positive. We've created a program that has benefited our community."

"We've recommended some of them for employment," Bowling said. "It's another step in the right direction."

Bowling frequently sentences defendants who plead guilty to lesser felony charges to community control sanctions and has them do 200 hours of community service.

Common Pleas Judge Charles "Chuck" Cooper said the program also allows people a way to work down court costs. The people will get credited for minimum wage for every hour worked toward paying off court costs, he said.

During winter months, those working off community service hours have been mopping floors at the courthouse and painting several offices, said Carl Bowen, chief of the adult probation program. "We'll have six to 20 working per day," he said.

The workers painted the office of County Recorder Sharon Gossett Hager and will be painting the office of County Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson next, Bowen said.

"The program has been excellent," he said. "We want to save as much in food costs as we can. We're providing a major savings to the jail. This year, we plan to process and store some of the vegetables. We have several judges on board for this program."

Some of those who participated in the planting later came back after their community service was over to see the vegetables harvested, he said.

"It's a way to save money and it also gives us a chance to influence these people in a positive way," Bowen said. Court personnel have recommended several program participants for jobs in the private sector, he said. "It can only increase their chances of finding a job."