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Cook County Jail inmates can order hot pizza delivered to their cells

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Kim Janssen

Life in Cook County Jail just got a little bit more like the college dorm experience, thanks to Sheriff Tom Dart.

Inmates in the jail's primarily medium-security Division 11 can now order piping hot pizza ó delivered direct to their cells, according to the sheriff's office.

Cooked on-premises by their fellow inmates in the jail's own pizza oven, the pizzas cost between $5 for a plain margherita and $7 for a fancy "four seasons" pie, loaded up with mushrooms, soppressata (salami), olives and egg.

The sausage pizza is a favorite, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Cara Smith.

But "this isn't coddling the detainees," said Smith, who said the revenue generated from the pizza sales will support the jail's "Recipe for Change" program, run by chef Bruno Abate.

Chef Bruno, an Italian immigrant who owns the Wicker Park restaurant Tocco, teaches inmates skills they can use when they're released and looking for work. But he told the Tribune last year that his main goal was to improve inmates' self-esteem and love of food.

Looking for a way to ensure taxpayers aren't on the hook for the program, Dart originally planned to have Bruno's students sell pizzas to jail staff, but the jail guards "wanted nothing to do with anything made by detainees," Smith said.

So since April 20 pre-trial detainees in Division 11, which holds up to 1,536 men, have been able to use their commissary cash to buy six different kinds of pizza. As of Monday, 208 pies had been sold, Smith said.

Plans to start a food truck serving food cooked by inmates are still in the development stage, she added.

Twitter @kimjnews

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