PMQ: HOW DID YOU WORK WITH THE JAIL
TO CREATE RECIPE FOR CHANGE? ARE THESE
TYPES OF PROGRAMS WELCOME IN THAT
Abate: Cook County is a jail, not a prison. Most of the
people there are pretrial and haven’t been convicted of
anything, and they’re not mentally ill. I began working
with the Juvenile Detention Center seven years ago in St.
Charles. After about a year and a half, the program closed
down. ;en I thought I needed to go to Cook County,
but I didn’t know anything about jail. A friend came in
my restaurant, Tocco, and I told him that I needed to talk
to someone at Cook County Jail. Turns out my friend is
the brother of Cook County Sheri; Tom Dart. Within a
few weeks of meeting Dart, I started my program again in
the Boot Camp at Cook County Jail. After another year
and a half, the Boot Camp closed down, and I moved to
the basement kitchen in Division 11, where I’ve been for
almost four years.
PMQ: HOW DOES THE PROGRAM WORK?
Abate: My program is a 12-week cycle with a curriculum
that teaches culinary skills, nutrition and sanitation skills
for food servers. We teach cooking, but that’s the smallest
part. We teach how to change your life, how to be a better
dad for your children, how to get a job, manage your
money, and all kinds of things that can make you a better,
more responsible person. We want these men to return to
society as changed, productive people who do not cause
trouble and come back to jail. After the 12-week program,
the guys earn their food sanitation license from the state
of Illinois and begin an internship in the pizza kitchen.
PMQ: TELL US MORE ABOUT THE PIZZA KITCHEN.
Abate: We have a beautiful pizza oven that was purchased
with funds that were donated to Recipe for Change. We
make everything from scratch. We sell pizzas made by
detainees to the detainees housed in Division 11. ;e
detainees use their own money (commissary accounts)
to buy the pizza. Selling pizzas is good for a few reasons.
Our students get real experience in high-volume food
preparation, which is something you can’t teach without
experiencing it. If the other detainees behave badly, they
cannot buy pizza. It’s an incentive to behave better if you
want a pizza.
We give everyone the opportunity to eat something
healthier than what’s served regularly, and it doesn’t cost
the taxpayers a penny. We actually save the taxpayers
money, because the inmates pay for their own pizza. ;e
money we raise selling pizza helps to fund the Recipe for
Change program so we can keep changing lives, and it
also goes to the Inmate Welfare Fund, which helps pay
for other programs that are working to change lives and
make a di;erence. Our program and others are focused on
returning to society good citizens who made a mistake but
are now di;erent. We are reducing recidivism! We found a
way to have inmates help themselves without costing the
taxpayers any money. I think that’s a pretty good thing.
If the detainees behave badly, they are not allowed to purchase pizza
with their commissary accounts.
Abate interviews each inmate who’s interested in the program to see if he
really has it in his heart to change.
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