Published: Jun 25, 2010 11:48 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 25, 2010 8:50 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The Lee County Sheriff's Office is now using outdoor space at the Ortiz jail complex to store impounded livestock. It's part of a plan to cut costs and put inmates to work.

Inmates have already built holding areas and made other preparations to take in the animals.

There are 4 pastures to contain animals that either run loose, or are abused and neglected. The new project is also meant to contain thousands of dollars in costs because of an increasing number of abuse cases, according to Corporal Randy Hodges. In the old system, an outside vendor would take the animals for a fee.

"It's a secure facility, but we have to pay him daily rates to feed and take care of the animals," said Hodges.

In cases like one a few months ago in North Fort Myers, neglected goats had to be cared for throughout the owner's court proceedings. So far this year, the county has spent roughly $8,000 dollars on care for animals.

The new facility cost 11-thousand dollars to build, but - by using inmates - deputies say it will pay for itself in savings.

"Stretching the wire, digging the poles, constructing the lean-to's everything you see in operation right now for this agriculture project has been constructed by the inmate labor," said Lieutenant Kevin Koller.

Inmates who are signed up for the labor program will feed and care for livestock as it comes in, earning time off of their sentences, and at the same time, doing something productive and unique.

"Other than cooking food, doing laundry mopping floors, this is a good opportunity for the inmates to care," said Koller.