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Home > Press Page

Wednesday, September 9, 2010— Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart will be joined by Chicago restaurant leaders to certify 26 inmates as “master gardeners” in a special ceremony Thursday after they completed an alternative sentencing program created to increase their job opportunities as they re-enter the workforce. 

The Garden Harvest Ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, September 9th at the jail garden, 3026 S. California St., Chicago.  The garden is located just behind the jail administration building.  Parking is available in the lot on the north side of the administration building.

The certification is the culmination of a summer-long program that helps non-violent inmates develop job skills.  In addition to the 26 master gardeners, 16 other inmates will be presented with certificates of appreciation for their work.  This year’s crop is expected to be the largest in the program’s 17-year history with 5 tons of food being harvested from the 14,000 sq. foot garden.  This year also marks the first time that the new 1,500 sq. foot greenhouse was utilized.  Most of the crops grown this year were grown from seeds in the greenhouse that were then transplanted, saving the program approximately $1,500.

Representatives from Charlie Trotter’s and The Publican restaurants are expected to be on hand.  Over the years the program has donated food to various shelters and in the last year has formed partnerships with these two restaurants as well, providing them with vegetables and herbs. 

The program began in 1993 and is a joint partnership between the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the University of Illinois Extension Services.  Since its inception more than 500 inmates have participated and over 63 tons of food has been harvested.  The garden is operated at no cost to taxpayers, as the jail’s Department of Community Supervision and Intervention utilizes inmate welfare funds - profits generated off jail commissary sales - to begin each year’s crop and for construction of the greenhouse.    As the Cook County Jail’s gardening program continues to grow, the goal is to eventually make it completely self-sustaining. 

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