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Cooking up a future

County inmates learn culinary skills from Mallozzi's chef

A new program at the Schenectady County Correctional Facility teaches inmates culinary job skills in an effort to avoid recidivism.

Our hope is it provides some skills for the inmates when they leave the facility and helps them attain some employment and put them on a path that is a positive one, said County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino. "It is in the hopes that this on track to keep them away from this place."

County officials organized the program in partnership with Mallozzi's, local restaurant and catering operators, to offer an eight-week culinary course to train soon-departing inmates to be better prepared to enter the job market and start on a better path to avoid future crime convictions. The first two classes, separated by gender, held a graduation ceremony recently for the eight male and five female students, who are all low-level, non-violent inmates. Mallozzi's Corporate Executive Chef Ryan Huneau taught the program, which met twice a week for two hours with each group. The course is scheduled to be offered twice a year, with one in the spring and one in the fall.

Dagostino said, so far, the program has been successful. A culinary program was selected because the job market is better in that field compared to others.

In coming up with the program, the focus was on gaining life skills for reentry and keeping costs down.

"Everything is volunteer and at no cost to the taxpayers for the program," said Dagostino. "We are very, very conscious of budgetary constraints and in this kind of climate, we have been tasked out to do more with less, and we are actively pursuing any kind of creative ideas at a cost that is very minimal or none at all."

Completing the program makes the inmates a minimum security risk when reentering the community, he said, and before the actual certificates of completion were handed out, three inmates had already left the facility. There is a waiting list to get into the program.

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