BAXTER COUNTY, Ark. — A group of inmates in Arkansas are giving back to the community they took from — by taking part in the preservation and upkeep of neglected cemeteries every two weeks.
The inmates involved in the “Baxter County Cemetery Maintenance and Restoration Project” work on a voluntary basis.
“They seek to come out and do this, they ask to come out and do this,” said Captain Jeff Lewis of the Baxter County Sheriff’s Department, who spearheaded the program.
“The Sheriff was looking for a way to have some inmates go out and work in the community and do something that was beneficial to the community,” Captain Lewis said, “And I’d always been interested in history.. and I’d done some research on some of the cemeteries in the county and knew that there were a number of them that had been abandoned and were not give any upkeep whatsoever and really were in poor condition.”
Today, they went to work at the Wesley Chapel Cemetery, tucked away in a remote and grassy area near Mountain Home — and in need of much work.
” Our first trip out here took about two and a half full days to really cut your way in with a chainsaw and clear it out and see what was here,” said Captain Lewis.
For these inmates, getting out and doing this work is an opportunity to give back to the community that they took from.
“I mean this is the community we all live in,” said inmate Brandy Brinbarnes, “We have family here and relatives and we love our community. Just because we got in trouble, doesn’t mean we’re not proud of our community.”
Beautifying these old cemeteries gives them something they can be proud of.
“We like to come out and help the community and get out of jail and get to do something that’s helping out,” Brinbarnes said, “I like history all so. All these cemeteries that we do have a lot of historical meaning to them.”
Captain Lewis says right now, they’re working to restore about a dozen cemeteries and he’s researching to find more.