Northpoint Training Center sells cattle at auction

March 22, 2004|JIM LOGAN

On first glance Saturday, Max Smith appeared either courageous or a few cows short of a herd. With no hesitation, he was chasing a 1,500-pound bull down a narrow chute, prodding it with a short stick.

He was, however, just doing his job, one he was happy to have.

As an inmate at Northpoint Training Center, a medium-security prison on Ky. 33 near Burgin, Smith was sending along animals for the facility's cattle auction.

Saturday's brisk auction of 32 head, which drew farmers from around the state, is one of two each year at the prison. The proceeds go directly to the state's general fund, said Jim Morgan, Northpoint's warden.

The auction was "basically a bull sale, but we threw in five heifers and five calves to spice things up a bit," said Billy Peel, Northpoint's farm manager.


Sales totals were not available Saturday.

The 32 head of cattle, all registered Angus, are from the prison's 400-acre farm that's worked by a dozen trusties like Smith, who is from Albany.

"I've messed with cattle on and off all my life," Smith said.

Henry Morrow Jr., the farm manager at Roederer Correctional Complex in LaGrange, says the prisons try to find men with some farm experience. For those who can't tell the difference between bulls and cows, a willingness to learn is vital. Being bull-headed can be painful.

"You have to pay attention," Morrow said about inmates working with cattle. "If they'll listen to me I can keep them from getting injured."

Vincent Brown is learning.

"Until I'm truly experienced I wouldn't even get between somebody and a cow," he said.

A 33-year-old inmate from Detroit, he had zero experience with cattle before getting a farm job at Northpoint. Handling cattle hasn't been easy.

"Doing what's necessary is always difficult when you're new to something," Brown said.

Northpoint and Roederer are two of four prisons around the state with farms manned by inmates. The others are Blackburn Correctional Complex in Frankfort and Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Eddyville.

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