Monroe County

Across the country, more inmates are finding ways to give back to their communities while they're serving time, from growing food to making furniture.

One Florida program has been at it for two decades: The Stock Island jail in the Florida Keys has had inmates double as animal shelter caretakers. Writer Kim Raff visited the jail for Narratively, and found the jail now holds 125 different species, up from just 25 a decade ago.

Monroe County put together a great video that shows off the program:

Mike Smith, a former inmate who did time for repeated public intoxication, told Raff he enjoyed “actually doing something good when I was in a pretty bad situation myself… It really gave me peace.”

Monroe County
Monroe County

Jeanne Selander, a marine biologist who runs the program, says she was apprehensive at first when she joined 10 years ago. But she soon realized the mutual benefits of having inmates and animals care for each other. The point was driven home when the jail took in a blind horse named Ghost.

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The inmates “try to be the big burly guys with the attitude,” Selander said. “And that always used to move me whenever I’d see them talking to the blind horse, because that’s a bond they’re forming with an animal that needs them.”

The jail opens the farm up to the public twice a month and allows qualified inmates the chance to interact with them.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.