Inmates at the Leon County Jail all have different stories, but this morning, more than a handful had one thing in common: green thumbs. A handful of inmates from the Sheriff's Office's work programs cleaned up an historic cemetery in Leona. The inmate volunteer project is not only cutting down maintenance costs at the jail and around the county, but teaching the inmates a lesson.
"I grew up here,” said Leona resident Talbert Nash.
Talbert Nash and his wife live on 90 acres of land in Leona.
“Two years ago we had all of that dry weather and so many trees fell,” Nash said.
At 87-years-old, he says maintaining the land and the historic cemetery on his property takes a little more effort.
“I keep it mowed and keep the pasture cleaned up around it,” Nash said.
Today and for the next few days Nash will have a yard crew working on property clearing out and cleaning up the cemetery.
“I don't think they can do it one day, but maybe two days,” Nash added.
And it's obviously not your typical yard crew -- they're inmates from the Leon County Jail.
“Some of them you know, we can't release to work out here, but those with misdemeanor charges and probation type charges, we can get them out there working,” said Nash.
Ellis says they'll be working around the county on average 20-30 hours a week cleaning up cemeteries and county roads. He says the program is giving some of the inmates a sense of purpose.
“It's a program that gives these guys something to do,” said Leon County Sheriff Kevin Ellis.
William B. Middleton, who served as the very first sheriff of Leon County, was buried here in 1877. The history is just one of the reasons the inmates are working hard to preserve it. Ellis says the volunteer-based program gives the inmates a sense of purpose and not only is the labor cost effective -- the cleanup is turning eyesores in the county into something citizens can be proud of.
“We've had a lot of trash and a lot of illegal dumping and we've been working on those issues trying to get these people located and with these guys I can take them out and we can pick the trash up and keep the county clean,” said Ellis.
Ellis say says it's the first of many more cleanup projects to come.
"When it's cleaned up and the fence is painted back, it's going to look really good,” said Nash.
Sheriff Ellis says the program is volunteer based and does not reduce the inmate’s sentences.