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The practice of yoga imparts skills which increase participants’ sense of self-awareness, personal responsibility, and problem-solving abilities. The increased capacity for mindfulness fostered by yoga is a benefit to participants during their time in custody, and continues to serve them after their return to the community. The majority of yoga instruction at CCDOC is trauma-informed, taking the specific needs of this population into account.
Established in 2012, the chess program is believed to be the first of its kind nationally. Individuals in custody are given weekly chess lessons and participate regularly in chess tournaments. More recently, players were challenged to compete online; they participated in three international online chess matches. Individuals in custody learn to apply critical thinking skills, patience, impulse control, and positive pro-social interactions. Individuals must demonstrate good behavior during their time in CCDOC custody in order to be considered for acceptance into the program. The program is available to individuals throughout the entire jail, and is facilitated by CCDOC programming staff and volunteers.
Recipe for Change was founded by Italian Chef Bruno Abate. Five days a week, individuals in custody are immersed in culinary skills training in a state-of-the-art industrial-grade kitchen.
The students are not only taught food preparation and recipes, but also receive instruction on nutrition, safety and sanitation and proper serving etiquette.
Participants who complete the program gain knowledge in the following skills:
- Culinary arts
- Food sanitation
- Artistic painting
The mission of the Cook County Sheriff’s Garden Program is to increase participants’ skillset by offering them a routine working environment and transforming destructive behavior into conscious life-enhancing decisions.
History of the Garden Program
The program began in the pre-release center in 1993, incorporating individual in custody labor to its 600-square-foot seasonal vegetable garden.
Over 25 years, the program has shipped approximately 50 tons of fresh produce to non-profits, taught horticulture to more than 500 non-violent individuals in custody, and certified more than 200 Master Gardeners who underwent classroom instruction and hands-on testing.
In 2010, the construction of a 1,500 square foot greenhouse helped extend the farming season. A year later, the garden’s land was expanded into 2 acres of “classroom” workspace for the horticultural program. Currently, one acre cultivates flowers and the other vegetables.
Benefits of the Sheriff’s Garden Program
Horticulture therapy provides numerous psychological and physical benefits such as patience, peer collaboration, strong work ethic, and aerobic exercise.
The self-sustaining program comes at no cost to tax-payers. All proceeds are deposited into the individual in custody welfare fund that finances the garden and other rehabilitative programs. Individuals in custody help sell the harvest to local restaurants and at the Daley Plaza Farmer’s Market, giving them the opportunity to learn employable skills such as business operations, production, packaging, delivery, bookkeeping, and marketing.
Our restaurant supporters are particularly interested in purchasing micro-greens such as arugula, mustard greens and basil. Their support proves to extend beyond a business transaction when they hire the program’s graduates. Over the past 3 years, approximately 8 individuals in custody have pursued a career with these local restaurants.
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