This Animal Rescue Farm Is Built Under A Jail And Run By Its Inmates

“As long as we have the animals here, we can find our peace and tranquility here."

The Florida Keys may be popularly known as a relaxing vacation destination, but it's also home to a county jail where inmates can learn to care for rescued animals on an actual farm.

The Monroe County Jail on Stock Island has a sprawling farm underneath the facility which spreads out around parts of the jail for the farm's animals to roam.

The facility is built 11 feet off the ground for hurricane safety.

This is Jeanie Selander, the director of the farm, with one of its newest members — a miniature paint donkey rescued by the South Florida SPCA in Homestead.

Selander, a marine biologist, joined the Monroe County Sheriff's office as a non-sworn deputy in 2006 to run the Keys Animal Farm, which was was first established in 1994.

"They had just a few animals," she told BuzzFeed News. "It was pretty dirty and needed some repairs and some love."

Over the last 10 years, she has garnered donations to build new habitats and plant grass. She's also worked with rescue organizations across the country to find abandoned or abused animals a forever home at the farm.

The animal farm has grown from housing just 20 animals to caring for over 200 creatures, including this baby goat named Domino.

But the farm also cares for more exotic rescue animals like this Kinkajou.

Selander has jail inmates working the farm year around.

The inmates must apply to volunteer at the farm and must meet certain requirements to join. Selander said all of the volunteer inmates are serving time for non-violent offenses.

The inmates help with everything from feeding the animals, to helping with their medical needs.

They've also built and improved habitats for the animals to live in, like this a rock wall behind the tortoise and turtle pond, which will become a running waterfall.

The animal farm runs completely on donations, including Selander's own salary. It only receives a small percentage of funds from the jail's inmate welfare fund.

The farm also draws an average of about 150 to 200 people when it opens its doors to the public every second and fourth Sunday of every month.

On Sunday, a record 1,070 people visited the farm.

All of the profits from the entrance fees goes back into the farm.

Selander said she has seen a number of inmates learn from their work on the farm. Some of the inmates have never been around farm animals, let alone exotic animals.

"If they're local, and they get back out, they actually come back and bring their kids and families to the farm," she said. "That’s a good feeling to know they loved it enough that they came back and wanted to share that with people."

Orlando Gonzalez, a caretaker at the farm, told Marathon Florida that the volunteer inmates enjoy being around the animals.

"We just enjoy doing what we do here," he said. "It's a wonderful experience. I believe as long as we have the animals here, we can find our peace and tranquility here."

Selander calls her work at the farm "a labor of love." She loves going to work in the morning and says the animals greet her as she walks through the farm.

"I pick up the inmates and they just breathe a sigh of relief when they walk outside that jail door and get to be with the animals," she said.

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