June 6 2019 12:00 AM

A program aims at reducing recidivism by giving offenders green industry job skills.

The men working in a garden, all wearing the same uniform, don’t work for a landscape company — not yet, anyway. But the orange-jumpsuit-clad inmates at the Davidson County Jail in Nashville, Tennessee have high hopes that someday they will.

A story aired by WTVF-TV Nashville reports how dozens of jail denizens are participating in a horticulture program at the Davidson County lockup. They were interviewed as they worked outdoors in the heat, harvesting the carrots they planted.

In the report, inmate Ronald Dye is heard to say, "Without these programs, change is not going to come. It’s not going to come at all."

Some of these men have been incarcerated for serious crimes. Nonetheless, they’re putting their time behind bars to good use. Dye adds, “Hopefully someone will get to eat really well, vegetables are always good for ya.”

Dye says in the report that he wants to use his new gardening skills when he gets out. Another inmate, Malcolm Rhodes, says of the program, “It will help me be successful. I’m ready to start over when I get out, to just do something positive and give back to my community.”

Rhodes says in the story that he’s learned a lot from taking the horticulture class. “We actually made a salad the other day, and we actually got to eat some of the things that we’ve been growing out here, and it was actually pretty good!”

Paul Mulloy, Program Director for the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department, hopes the training will help keep the inmates out of trouble. “It also lets these guys know that they can contribute to the community as opposed to taking away from the community,” he comments in the report. He adds that the program has donated around 2,000 pounds of produce to the Second Harvest Food Bank over the last couple of years.

In a second garden by the jail, select inmates can learn about arboriculture. Through local partnerships, seeds and trees are usually donated. Some of the seedlings are replanted near the Cumberland River by the inmates in an effort to help reduce flooding. The seedlings are also used to fill in areas where trees have been torn down due to construction.

Mulloy says in the taped piece, “We try to reach out to landscape companies to get their attention as to what we’re doing, and so they can basically cherry-pick people who really understand what they’re doing.”

Rhodes hopes he’ll be one of them. As the sun beat down, Rhodes says he can see a brighter future ahead. “I feel like anything I can do to help me, or better my situation, I’m all for it.”

Mulloy says the program has been active for 5 years, and he hopes to expand it in the future.