Culinary Arts Training Program to Start for Inmates - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Culinary Arts Training Program to Start for Inmates

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James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. A culinary arts training program will start there for offenders. (Photo: WBOC) James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. A culinary arts training program will start there for offenders. (Photo: WBOC)
The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna will be the second facility to host a culinary arts training program for its offenders. (Photo: WBOC) The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna will be the second facility to host a culinary arts training program for its offenders. (Photo: WBOC)

SMYRNA, Del.- The Delaware Department of Correction unveiled plans Tuesday to convert an unused cafeteria dining building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center into the Matt Haley Culinary Arts Training Center for inmates.

The governor's office says the program aims to prevent offenders from finding themselves back in the criminal justice system once their sentence is finished.  The facility that has yet to be built will be a restaurant-style kitchen where offenders can train and learn all aspects of the trade. Many will leave the correctional facility with certifications to work in the field.

Gamaliel Russell is from Dover, and he has 11 years left on his 15-year sentence.

"I was a knucklehead for a long time," he said. "I realized that just because I'm locked up that my mind is still free. So I started learning different things while I was in here."

Jason Miller, a communications officer for the governor, says 97 percent of offenders currently incarcerated in Delaware will complete their sentences and return to the community. Of that 97 percent, two thirds of them will get arrested for something else after completing their original sentence. He says this process is called recidivism. Miller says the program aims to reduce the number of ex-offenders who return.

Miller says there is a reason culinary arts training makes a lot of sense for Delaware's correctional facilities. Numbers from the governor's office show the culinary industry is the most forgiving and hires more ex-offenders than any other industry in Delaware.

Russell says the program has helped him determine the type of man he wants to be.

"If I go out there with nothing to look forward to, I'll continue to fail," he said. "There's a saying that goes, a man without a purpose is a man without a life. And a man without life is just a man that exists. I don't want to be that man that just exists. I want to make a change."

Rose Finocchiaro teaches a culinary arts training program at Baylor Women's Correctional Institution in New Castle. She says the offenders are learning practical skills.

"Cooking, baking, we do human resource management," she said. "We have hospitality and service which teaches them how to serve people [and gain] front-of-house skills."

The training facility was named after Matt Haley, an offender-turned-entrepreneur. Haley started a restaurant group in Delaware that eventually became known as SoDel Concepts. He passed away after a bad accident overseas. He is remembered by his family as a humanitarian and entrepreneur.

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