A Surefire Cure for the Folsom Prison Blues: Pizza Delivered to Inmates’ Cells

Tocco’s Chef Bruno Abate teaches pizza-making skills to Cook County Jail detainees.




Chef Bruno Abate, who runs the Recipe for Change pizza-making program at Cook County Jail, shares a slice with 60 Minutes journalist Leslie Stahl.

 

Here’s one way to prevent a prison riot: Deliver pizza straight to the inmates’ cells. Cook County Jail in Chicago is doing exactly that, reports Time magazine, and the verdict is in: delicious.

It’s part of the jail’s Recipe for Change program created by Chef Bruno Abate, who owns Tocco in the Wicker Park area and instructs inmates in the art and craft of pizza-making. Pizzas range from $5 for a Margherita to $7 for the gourmet Four Seasons pie, topped with soppressata, mushrooms, olives and an egg. Inmates pay with their commissary cash, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Sheriff Tom Dart said the program, which started in April, teaches detainees useful skills so they can land jobs after they’re released. Inmates in the medium-security, all-male section of the jail cook the pies and deliver them. More than 200 have been baked up and delivered since April 20, and the service is available to about 1,500 inmates.

The only catch: You can order a pizza anytime (by submitting a request form on paper), but, due to the pizza makers’ limited availability, it will get there when it gets there. “It’s not like Domino’s,” a Cook County jail spokeswoman told Time. A pizza ordered on Monday may arrive that same day or sometime on Friday.

Abate raised money for the program in a promotion at Tocco last October that coincided with his birthday. For $100 a ticket, customers enjoyed a buffet, beer, wine and prosecco, with portions of all sales going to Recipe for Change.

Sheriff Dart said the program boosts inmates’ confidence and gives them a viable set of skills that can help them find employment once they get out of jail. “This is about helping people get jobs,” he told Time. “It builds an incredible sense that they’re worth something.”

 

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