December 1995 // Volume 33 // Number 6 // Ideas at Work // 6IAW3

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

Rehabilitating Misdemeanor Offenders at County Jail Through Extension Education

OSU Extension-Clermont County delivers educational programs in horticulture, agriculture, and family life to misdemeanor offenders at Clermont County jail as part of their comprehensive rehabilitating process. Classes involve both formal instruction and hands-on training. This program is the first of its kind in the nation. An innovative grant of $6,000 was awarded to this program by OSU Extension. If the program proves successful, inmates will improve their lives and be more productive citizens.

Gary Gao, Ph.D.
Extension Agent
Internet address:

Kim Dupree
Extension Agent
Family and Consumer Science
Internet address:

Steve McKee, Ph.D.
Extension Agent
Agriculture/Natural Resources/Community Development
Internet address:

Clermont County, Ohio

The Ohio State University Extension-Clermont County offers educational programs in horticulture, agriculture, and family life to misdemeanor offenders at the Clermont County Jail. The program is a part of the comprehensive inmate rehabilitating process. It is tailored toward inmates who were convicted of driving under the influence (D.U.I.) of controlled substances. The horticulture agent offers a comprehensive program on gardening, landscaping, and commercial greenhouse plant production; the agriculture agent delivers programs on small scale farming and community waste management; and the family and consumer science agent provides educational programs on parenting, money management, and family communication. The agents received an innovative grant from The Ohio State University Extension to aid in purchasing materials for this program.

Rehabilitating D.U.I. inmates through Extension education is a new concept in the United States. The unique features of our program are that D.U.I. inmates learn to garden, which has well known therapeutic effects, improve their parenting and family resource management skills, and learn about environmental and community issues. If the program proves successful, these D.U.I. inmates would spend more time in the garden, use their horticultural and agricultural training in job hunting, improve their parenting skills, and abstain from substance abuse.

D.U.I. inmates go through a comprehensive horticulture program that is very similar to the Master Gardener Program. Classroom instructions cover biology of horticultural plants, identification and culture of important horticultural crops, and integrated plant pest management. Teaching materials include slides, transparencies, Extension fact sheets, Extension bulletins, videos, and plant materials.

D.U.I. inmates also receive hands-on training that can be beneficial to them and the community. A greenhouse has been constructed for the D.U.I. rehabilitating program at the Clermont County Jail. The greenhouse is used both as a teaching lab and production facility to supply plants to the jail gardening and landscaping program. In the future, D.U.I. inmates will learn the techniques of greenhouse plant production. Eventually, this program will evolve into a jail horticultural industry program where inmates will produce ornamental plants to benefit the local community.

The Family and Consumer Science agent uses the "Active Parenting Today" program for parents of children ages 2-12, and the "Active Parenting of Teens" for parents of teenagers. Using the power of video drama, the programs portray situations between parents and their children or teens. This program covers topics from discipline techniques to communication skills. D.U.I. inmates have responded well to this type of class. Classes on single parenting, blended families, and family communication also received positive comments.

The money management classes touch on all phases of family budgeting such as setting goals and values, spending plans, credit, insurance and risk management, retirement planning, and investment planning. Videos are shown at the start of each money management class, and Extension materials are given out for the inmates to complete worksheets and have materials to take home with them upon release. A unique feature of the money management classes is that the inmates have to compute the amount of money it is costing them to be incarcerated and how much interest they would earn if they invested that amount. This has proven to be quite an eye opener for them!

Inmates are also instructed in composting, water management, water quality, pesticide usage and safety, and small farm alternatives. Handouts are made available to the inmates for in-class and out-of-class work. Most of these classes are multiple unit and designed to increase the inmates' awareness and knowledge. The subject mater is designed to cover topics that are of concern to the public and to provide the inmates the knowledge necessary to be productive citizens. These classes have generated many questions from inmates, and the responses from the inmates have been very favorable.

In brief, we had hoped D.U.I. inmates would make a positive change in their lives through their participation in our programs by becoming motivated to take on gardening and small scale farming, improving their parenting and money management skills, and abstaining from substance abuse. Ohio State University - Extension hopes to make a difference and help the inmates lead a more productive life upon release.