Los Angeles County

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department runs one of the largest jail systems in the world (http://shq.lasdnews.net/pages/PageDetail.aspx?id=1716), and detains more inmates than the entire state of Washington. The SPP-model programs are concentrated at Pitchess Detention Center, a complex of four jails that house nearly 10,000 incarcerated men.


A horticulture student hand plants greens in one of the jail’s many fields. Photo by LA Sheriff’s Department.

Horticulture Program

Historically, Pitchess was called the Peter J. Pitchess Honor Rancho, and served as a minimum-security farm. The “rancho” portion of operations shut down two decades ago and laid dormant for some time. Current jail staff have started to reinvigorate the farm, and the facility now hosts a thriving horticulture program. The Five Keys farm teacher provides classroom instruction to classes of 20 students, and graduates put their education to practice in the onsite fields. They grow several acres of vegetables for the jail kitchen. They raise bees and chickens. Everyone involved—instructor, students, technicians, and staff—are passionate about the farm’s success. With the help of an outside consultant, they are drafting a plan to grow the farm to 100+ acres within 3-5 years, and irrigate it all with a low-flow system.

A developing partnership with LA Community Garden Council will provide opportunities for newly released inmates who participated in the horticulture program. The council will recruit the former inmates to paid positions teaching low income community gardening. This program intends to help former inmates transition to permanent farm/garden related jobs, such as farmers markets, local produce food trucks, teaching, and urban garden maintenance. Eventually, they wish to create an incubator farm for urban farming or farmer’s market enterprises.


Horticulture students work with a mechanical transplanter to plant salad greens. Photo by LA Sheriff’s Department.

Sustainable Operations

County Sheriff’s Office develops sustainable operations plans in collaboration with multiple agencies Los Angeles County, and facilitated by Public Works. Their combined efforts are called Clean LA. The Sheriff’s Office contributed to the Roadmap to a Sustainable Waste Management Future, adopted in the fall of 2014. The guiding principle of the Roadmap is a New Waste Management Paradigm, which turns  traditional waste management on its head.


Waiting on permission to use.


The jail is proposing a waste conversion technology solution: an anaerobic digester and composting facility that will convert food and green waste into biogas and compost.  The biogas would be used in their co-generation plant to produce electricity and steam, for cooking in jail kitchens, and/or for heating hot water. The compost would go to the jail’s farm.
Also the jail is developing a water recycling proposal that will save 53 million gallons a year from the aquifer, and would save $181,000 in waste discharge costs alone.
The jail’s recycling efforts include an educational course for inmates, adding to the green educational offerings. Like SPP-Washington, they are establishing more pre-sorting, also called upstream sorting, so they can re-capture more material from the waste stream. Their focus is to keep food waste separate, so it does not have a chance to contaminate other commodities.