Presenting the CertificateOctober 12, 2018 – Westchester County Executive George Latimer, Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins and Chairman Benjamin Boykin of the Board of Legislators recognized twelve inmates who graduated from a five-week culinary training program at the Westchester County Jail.

Recognizing that most offenders return home from jail, a priority of the Latimer administration has been to provide them with transferable skills and educational opportunities to maximize their potential for a safe and productive re-entry.  In partnership with Aramark, the Department of Correction’s new executive leadership team has reinvigorated its ‘In2Work’ food service training program that teaches inmates kitchen basics and safe food handling. 

In addressing the twelve graduates, Correction Commissioner Joseph K. Spano stated firmly: “At DOC, we don’t judge you. We assess, we treat, we rehabilitate and we get you ready for re-entry. But when you leave here, it’s on you gentlemen to take the next step.  And the good news with this program is that there are next steps.” 

Those steps for success include access to a web portal of available job openings, assistance with writing resumes and the availability of scholarships for further study.  Commissioner Spano reinforced the success of the program by noting that earlier in the week, one of his assistant wardens encountered a previous In2Work graduate working at a grocery store in Mount Vernon, who is receiving an additional $4.00 per hour because he had completed the program.

Latimer then offered keynote remarks, noting that the Westchester restaurant and hospitality industries are thriving and need people like the graduates.  Speaking from the heart, the County Executive recalled how he admired his own hard-working father, explaining that the most important role the graduates can play in life is that of a dad and a loved one.   

Latimer stated: “When you go out there in this world, take this talent that you now have and put this experience (of being incarcerated) behind you.  Go forward and achieve, so that the persons in your life look at you the way that I looked at my father.  Prove to people that you are the person that you can be.”

Offering remarks of his own, Boykin recalled his years growing up in rural North Carolina where his father farmed and was a cook for the governor. Boykin stated, “Use this as an opportunity to better yourselves.  I want to see you in the community one day saying ‘I own this restaurant; these are my employees.’ You can make this happen.”

Instead of caps and gowns, the In2Work graduates were then presented with their chefs hats and aprons and, most importantly, a ServSafe certificate recognized as the national standard in food service.

At the close of the ceremony a student-prepared buffet showcased items grown onsite in the jail’s gardens, including harvest vegetable pitas and eggs gathered from the jail’s newest residents: a flock of chickens raised by its inmates.