Walton County expands jail programs

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - When it comes to giving inmates jobs, one local jail has found a way to not only save money but also give the inmates something to be proud of.

"Obviously we grow our own food here and we are trying to expand the level of programs we offer inmates in Walton County. We know that for every dollar you spend on programs there is a four dollar return on investment and were trying to do business smart here," said Sheriff Michael Adkinson.

The Walton County Jail has had a farm program for several years and is now in the process of expanding onto an additional 55 acres adjacent to the jail.

"So the 55 acres that are adjoining our campus, we are trying to expand to possibly add a tilapia operation where we grow fish internally, chickens, cows. We've even discussed some orchards," said Sheriff Adkinson.

Currently, the land surrounding the facility is used to farm produce such as carrots, cabbage, and beets, among other items that are used to feed the inmates.

"The idea that it is both therapeutic in that they are growing their own food and producing something of value and worth, but there is also a very fiscal return on investment for that as well. So we think it's good business, it's a good opportunity to really touch both those areas," added Sheriff Adkinson.

Sheriff Adkinson says he's not afraid to take risks and try something new that could potentially have a positive impact on his operations.

"It is an expansion and it's an opportunity, again from a program standpoint, to try some things differently to not only reduce costs but to help these folks to not return back to jail. I mean, that's ultimately our goal. It's always cheaper to prevent than it is to incarcerate. So if we can make a difference, then I think that's what we have an obligation to do," he pointed out.

"My mindset is to let's make people better not bitter, and see if we can do things differently. And quite honestly, I'm not afraid to fail. I think that's what inhibits government a lot, they are so worried about being judged that they won't take the bold move or sometimes the opportunity to be efficient, because they're worried about the internet snipers sitting around at two o'clock in the morning and telling you how you should have done it," Sheriff Adkinson stated. "I don't really suffer from that quite frankly. We're gonna try to do what we think is the right thing to do and do it in a manner that makes sense."

May 25th, the Walton County Sheriff's Office closed on the new land with a final purchase price of $155,000.

Sheriff Adkinson says their next step is to work with the county on scheduling when to clear the land.

"We're not going to do it haphazardly. We want to make sure that there is a design plan and then figure out in stages, what makes sense to start first. Is what came first, the chicken or the egg?" he said.