Pinellas County Jail: plants so cheap you think you're stealing - WFLA News Channel 8

Pinellas County Jail: plants so cheap you think you're stealing

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PINELLAS COUNTY, FL -

Plants are so cheap at the Pinellas County Jail, it's almost like you're stealing them thanks to a program that nurses sick plants back to health.

The jail's horticulture program, run by an instructor with Pinellas Technical Education Center, has been around for nearly nine years and is proving to be incredibly successful.

A local wholesale plant distributor donates most of the plants. The plants may be distressed or overstocked.

The inmates at the jail nurse them back to health, and then they are sold to county employees as well as the public.

Many people are asking if taxpayers are footing the bill to keep this program alive.  

Absolutely not, says program director Chuck Poole, with PTEC.  "The money from the plant sales goes directly back into the program meaning it doesn't cost taxpayers one red cent. And that's also the benefit for customers, as plants are sold for a fraction of what they go for at commercial nurseries or home improvement warehouses."

Poole adds, "I was at Home Depot recently and I priced a knockout rose and that's what these are and it was not very large and it was about 15 dollars. And these are how much? Five dollars. "

The inmates work for free, but they get their education for free.

Sammy Dockery is serving time for petit theft and plans to use what he's learned here, on the outside. He has less than a month left on his sentence.   He says, "I've learned a lesson, and I guess I needed to be here to learn this.  To make it this time. And I can't wait. 28 days. I just can't wait for 28 days. "

William Thomas is also an inmate in the program.  He says for him, the work is therapeutic.  "It just relaxes you being out here, amongst all of these plants. It's kind of like therapy," Thomas says.

The jail's nursery is open to the public from 1pm - 2pm, Monday through Friday. The jail is located at 14400 49th Street North in Clearwater. Poole says he also plans to load several trucks with plants and take them to the Green Thumb Festival at Walter Fuller Park in St. Petersburg. That festival takes place the weekend of April 27th and 28th.

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