Prison Farm Pilot Program

By: Lindsay Liepman
By: Lindsay Liepman

For years, Texas inmates have grown their own food.

But a pilot program is taking a look at how much money might be saved if the job was contracted to professionals.

Growing the very food on their plate has served its purpose for years for Texas prisoners.

But a new pilot program could have others doing their job cheaper.

"I would rather see these offenders working in the field growing what they're eating than having someone deliver it to them," says Director of Ag Business for TDCJ, Tom Fordyce.

Food services at the Hamilton Unit in Bryan is being contracted out to Aramark.

The unit is spending $2.60 per inmate per day...a savings of 17 cents over the current system.

Fordyce says there is no company that could ever replace the role Texas inmates play in agriculture.

Inmates like the ones at the nearby Buffalo ranch in Burleson County.

"We have no intentions of shutting down any ag operation and especially the buffalo ranch because it's so vital to the existence of ag because of the amount of production," says Fordyce.

TDCJ is still not sure the program would actually save money in the long run.

The state says it's still too early to tell if prisoners or contract labor would be best, but they say the current program is allowing them to take a look at doing things better, even if that means keeping the old system.

The Hamilton Unit is the only prison participating in the pilot program that will end next August.


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