Since 2007, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Lee College in Baytown have worked together to hold an annual Herbs Behind Bars competition, where TDCJ units from around the state vie for garden design and crop production awards. This year, the 2019 Herbs Behind Bars grand championship title went to the Havins Unit in Brownwood.
Beginning with a single garden installed at the Dalhart Unit, this contest has been very successful and continues to grow in popularity. This year, Herbs Behind Bars accepted entries from dozens of TDCJ units around the state.
The competition begins when Lee College instructors and TDCJ staff help offenders plan, plant and learn how to maintain their gardens. Offenders in the program take well-deserved pride in their work as their crops are used to help improve the taste and variety of food on the unit. Seeds are donated, so there is virtually no cost to the agency for these gardens.
Competing units are divided into small, medium and large categories. Each entry is accompanied by a book compiled by unit staff and describing their garden, including planting data and photos to illustrate progressive stages of growth. Award winners are selected based on garden design, the amount and quality of harvested crops, culinary success in the kitchen, as well as opinions expressed by staff and offenders.
The divisional winners of the 2019 Herbs Behind Bars competition are: