MCALESTER, Okla. – Oklahoma has more than 400 dairy farms. But this 1550 acre farm in McAlester is unique. It provides so much more than milk. The operation brings economic savings and job opportunity to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. “We provide 100% of the milk for the Department of Corrections,” Agri-Services Coordinator Cory Mitchell said.
The farm is run by DOC’s Agri-Services Division, employing dozens of inmates. “They gain some ownership in them and a sense of pride about themselves. We hope they will carry that on out into the world,“ Said Mitchell.
When these men begin, they have very little livestock experience. “Nowadays, most of them haven’t even seen a cow,” According to Mitchell. But these inmates quickly learn every aspect of dairy farming.
From birthing calves to feeding to administering medical care, they will leave Jackie Brannon Correctional Center capable of joining the workforce. “This has taught me patience and how to have a job, not hustling drugs or doing stuff I shouldn’t be doing. I took this like a VoTech. The skills here will maybe find me a job when I get out,” Inmate Glen Moreland said.
Beyond work skills, these men discover a new sense of responsibility. According to inmate, James Slaughter, “It taught me how to take care of animals. I’ve learned how to be kind and responsible.”
They are required to milk the cows twice a day, everyday. Mitchell said, “Rain, snow or shine. So, they are out here doing their job.” This prison farm produces 600,000 gallons of milk each year with an average savings to the taxpayers of .45 cents per gallon. “That’s a big chunk of change,” Said Mitchell.
Agri-Services contends the food and milk they supply also make the prisons a much safer environment. According to Mitchell, “Food, or lack of it is one of the biggest causes of riots in the prison system.”
The Department of Corrections is always looking for ways to save money, improve safety and train inmates to be productive citizens. Agri-Services is milking this program for all it’s worth.