The Pasco County Sheriff's Office has a program at the Land O' Lakes jail taxpayers can go hog wild about. The department's swine program saved Pasco citizens more than $13,000 in 2011.
And that figure is likely to increase for 2012. This time last year, the program had 60 pigs, Deputy Keith Adams said. On Thursday, that figure stood at 243 pigs, not including more than a dozen that were born that very afternoon.
Swine-raising is just one portion of the jail's agriculture program, which includes hydroponic gardens and cattle raising. The sheriff's office's Inmate Labor Section oversees the agricultural undertakings, as well as the overall grounds keeping at the facility.
The programs were designed to save taxpayer dollars and raise the work ethic of select inmates, giving them "a productive way to spend their court-ordered sentences," according to the sheriff's office.
Inmates in the swine program are on the farm by 7:30 a.m. and put a full day's work in, re-entering the jail at about 3:30 p.m. It's not a free pass, though. Inmates are strip searched and put through a metal detector each afternoon, Adams said.
Adams selects inmates who have longer sentences, he said, and tries to get guys who have an interest in animals.
"When they leave here, they've learned a lot," Adams said.
The pens are scrubbed daily, and Adams prides himself on the care the animals receive under his team's supervision.
"The pigs eat really well here," Adams said.
And so do Pasco deputies.
When the pigs reach about 13 months old, they are sent to a facility in Manatee County, which has a butchering program, Adams said. The meat is then returned to Pasco, where it is served to the sheriff's office front-line staff in the jail cafeteria, dubbed the "five-star cafe."
More than 8,000 pounds of meat from 87 hogs was returned to the jail in 2011, saving the facility's culinary unit $13,321.26 in 2011.
The program is run with inmate welfare funds, not taxpayer dollars, Sheriff Chris Nocco said. Every time an inmate makes a phone call, or buys a cup of coffee, a portion of that money goes into the fund, which pays for the farm's upkeep.
This is about giving them work experience, and learning how to report to a supervisor. Inmates realize that if they can do this kind of work, there's a lot of other things they can do when they get out, Nocco said.
Adams, a 15-year law enforcement veteran, loves working on the farm with the inmates.
"I'm the boss," he said. "But I work right alongside them."
The men are given a sense of pride in the work they do on the farm, and they are rewarded with a certificate of completion when they are released, which can help them find other opportunities, Nocco said.
And in addition to the tax-dollar savings, the program benefits Pasco citizens by helping to reduce recidivism, Nocco said.
If one person realizes they can get out of jail and better themselves so that they do not committ another crime, it's a success, Nocco said.