BOURNE, Mass. (AP) — Inmates at the Barnstable County Correctional Facility may soon be taught how to bake their own cakes. Files sold separately.
Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings announced this week that his office has received a $350,000 federal grant to establish a culinary arts certificate program at the Bourne jail and help inmates re-enter the community.
“They will teach them to cook from scratch,” Special Sheriff Jeffrey Perry said Wednesday during a tour of the 8-year-old jail’s kitchen.
In addition to a culinary arts instructor, the grant will fund a discharge planner, a case manager and a transitional health care coordinator to help inmates prepare for leaving the jail, Perry said.
Sheriff’s officials met with local business leaders and Cape Cod Community College officials to decide what type of training would best prepare inmates for work once they are released, Perry said, adding that cooking is a natural transition for the Cape’s service-oriented tourism industry. He declined to provide the names of the business leaders, citing the stigma sometimes attached to businesses that hire former convicts.
The jail already has a stainless steel-clad kitchen used to feed the more than 400 inmates. Inmates who work in the kitchen cannot have a violent criminal background or gang affiliations that could lead to conflicts, Perry said.
Jail officials take inventory of the large knives — tethered to tables — and other potential weapons at the end of the two shifts each day, Perry said.
Inmates who help prepare the three meals delivered directly to other prisoners earn 2½ days per month of good time that comes off their sentence, he said.
The culinary arts courses will help supplement the existing food preparation and students will not necessarily be drawn strictly from inmates now working in the kitchen, Perry said.
Benjamin Sisson, 23, of Falmouth, said he likes working in the kitchen because it gets him out of his cell.
“You get to be around other people,” he said. “It keeps you motivated.”
Sisson, who is serving a year sentence for larceny, said he would be interested in taking cooking classes while in jail.
“If that was an option, sure,” he said, adding that he didn’t plan on returning to jail once he gets out in another four months.
The inmates aren’t yet aware of the culinary coursework but some have asked if something similar were available, said Barnstable County Sheriff’s Capt. Brian Pires, who oversees the jail’s kitchen.
“They come and do some cooking — they like it,” he said.
While some inmates already have experience in restaurants and other kitchens, the new program will provide them with formal training and certification they can include on a resume. There are other benefits, such as the ability to set up health-care appointments prior to leaving the jail, Perry said.
“This will allow us to have a more holistic approach to an inmate’s re-entry,” he said.
Although the federal Second Chance Act grant pays for only one year of the program, it is renewable, Perry said.
Cape Cod Community College, which has a long-standing relationship with the sheriff’s office through other programs such as the GED diplomas, was delighted to take part in the culinary education program, said Susan Miller, college vice president of academic and student affairs.
“We agreed it would be a good fit,” she said.
The condensed seven-week program will include four of the 10 courses offered by the college through its hospitality certificate, Miller said.
These include a ServSafe certification course that is required in most food service jobs, she said.
An instructor agreed upon by the sheriff’s office and the college will work with the jail’s existing chef and staff to teach inmates, Miller said.
There will also be classroom components to the program, she said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.