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Growing seeds of hope; Jail re-entry program prepares inmates for their future

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    NORTHAMPTON CO, VA (WTKR) — It’s a strange sight, inmates under the fall Eastern Shore sun, picking lettuce for their next meal.

“So I think we’ve got Cobb salad for lunch tomorrow right guys,” yells Deputy Clark Lovelady.

The garden at the Eastern Shore Regional Jail is bright green while inmates eagerly dig in the soil.

Deputy Clark Lovelady explained that some of the garden produce includes bok choy, a Chinese cabbage, turnips, broccoli and mustard greens.

The garden is Lovelady’s brainchild. The Northampton County deputy previously worked in Richmond building gardens and spent extra time teaching elementary students how to tend to plants.

“This garden is special, it gives them [the inmates] a sense of accomplishment and [as if they are] treated like a normal person, I mean a lot of these guys I went to high school with,” explained Lovelady.

The garden is the focal point of the jails recently launched re-entry program. It’s a six-month curriculum that includes GED certification, Thinking for a Change, anger management, family reunification, substance abuse therapy and job training.

“Part of being released back into society is to feel like you are a human being, it’s hard to do when you are locked in a cage,” said Rev. Kelvin Jones, the program director and jail Chaplin.

“We are not shackled, we are not handcuffed, we are just free to enjoy the day,” said inmate Nicole Koester.

Koester is one of eight women and eight men in the first class of the six month program.

“You just feel so ashamed you just want an opportunity to make amends and not come back and repeat it over, because once you start the cycle it’s endless and you want to step off,” said Koester.

Rev. Jones said the re-entry program is based on the state model. He had a hand in actually creating it during his previous work with the Virginia Department of Corrections.

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