TOWANDA - The Bradford County Prison Board on Thursday endorsed a plan to start a garden at the Bradford County jail at which inmates would work.

Jail staff would supervise the inmates while they worked in the garden, and the produce grown would be consumed by the inmates at the jail, Bradford County jail Warden Donald Stewart told the Bradford County Prison Board at its meeting on Thursday.

The garden would be located on county-owned land by the jail, he said.

The county is now looking for volunteer Penn State Cooperative Extension-trained master gardeners or others with gardening expertise who would advise the county on how to set up the garden and teach the inmates how to garden, he said.

Working in the garden would give the inmates a job skill, would show them how to grow their own food and would reduce the expenses paid by the county to purchase produce, the warden said.

"We spend a lot of money each year (on produce)," Stewart said.

And freshly grown vegetables and other produce are a healthful alternative to other foods, he added.

Bradford County Sheriff Clinton "C.J." Walters said the garden would also be beneficial to inmates psychologically because they would be planting seeds, nurturing the plants, and then seeing the fruits of their labor consumed by their fellow inmates.

Only selected inmates would be allowed to work in the garden, the warden said. Specifically, to be eligible to work in the garden, inmates would need to be approved as "outside trustees" by staff and officials of the Bradford County Correctional Facility, including the medical and psychological staff, the jail counselor, the deputy warden, and the warden, Stewart said.

Currently, there are outside trustees, who have gone through the same approval process, who do lawn mowing and weed-whacking on the jail's grounds while being supervised by jail staff, he said.

The garden would likely be located on land between the jail and the Bradford County Library, said Stewart, who added that soil testing would be done to help determine the exact location of the garden.

Stewart said he would eventually like to see the size of the garden expand in future years to the point where it would be able to supply all of the vegetables needed for the jail during the harvesting season.

Inmates who work in the garden would get credit toward their $10-per-day fee that they are charged by the county for room and board at the jail, Stewart said.

Other jails, including prisons in Tioga and Columbia counties, have similar gardens where their inmates work, Stewart said.

At the meeting, the warden reported that during the past month, an inmate at the Bradford County Correctional Facility had taken the blade out of a disposable razor. The fact that the blade was missing was discovered immediately by jail staff, and the whole facility was locked in while a search for the blade was conducted, the warden said. The inmate reported that the blade fell down a sink drain, and jail staff were not able to find it, Stewart said.

Also during the past month, another inmate at the jail had fashioned the ear piece of his eyeglasses into a point, so that it could be used as a weapon, the warden said.

All of the pieces of the eyeglasses were recovered by jail staff, and no one was hurt, the warden said.

In response to the eyeglasses and razor blade incidents, the inmates involved were placed in a maximum security unit at the prison, the warden said.

The Prison Board also approved sending two to three inmates to do a project through the county's Community Workforce Inmate Program for South Waverly Borough's government.

The project includes maintenance of South Waverly's municipal building, including painting, and cleaning out curb areas of roadways.

The project is being done free of charge to the borough, the warden said. Inmates who do such projects are under the supervision of corrections officers at all times, the warden said.

Only non-violent inmates are allowed to do projects through the Community Workforce Inmate Program, county officials have said.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com