Culinary program at Hopkins Co. Jail teaches inmates cooking skills

Local News

There’s something cooking at the Hopkins County Kentucky jail.

The culinary program is designed to help inmates, the jail, and some non-profit agencies.

On the menu at a community lunch in Madisonville is chicken cordon bleu, green beans and miniature pies all made by Hopkins county jail inmates.

“At first, people are kind of shocked. They’re like, ‘This is from a jail? I’m not sure about it.’ But once they try and they meet my guys from the crew, they’re blown away because it’s not what you think comes from a jail,” says Dep. Jason Whicker of the Hopkins Co. Jail.

Jailer Mike Lewis says the program started several years ago, and teaches inmates cooking and communication skills. The inmates participating serve most of their sentence before they can start in the program.

“I think it’s one of the better ones that we do because not only does it allow us to teach inmates a new skill, it also helps us to help the local people,” Lewis says.

“It’s different than restaurants. You’re cooking for 450 people say every night, every meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” adds Corbitt Crawford, an inmate who participates in the program.

Lewis says since the program’s started, they cater as many as 25 events a year. To get all this food ready, ranging from little pies to big meals to the big meals, he says the inmates start their work as early as 4:00 AM.

Heather Roy, Director of Murray State’s Madisonville Regional Campus, says she’s hired them to fit within her department’s budget. The jail bills clients only for food, which varies in cost depending on the menu. 

“I really began using them many years ago when we were going to have multiple events and my budget wasn’t going to be sustainable if we had to be using outside caterers all the time,” says Roy. She adds many leave impressed with their culinary effort.

“It’s always good. They do a great job,” she says, when asked about the food.

Officials say the program helps some inmates move on to cooking jobs once they are released from jail.

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(This story was originally published on May 15, 2019)

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