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January 8, 2015
January 8, 2015, Jersey City, NJ – One out of every four adults in the United States has a conviction history. Each year, more than 700,000 U.S. men and women are released from prisons, and most struggle to start a new way of life. The obvious discrimination that accompanies a conviction record is one enormous barrier to former inmates’ successful return to their communities. However, most often these individuals lack the education and skills necessary for meaningful employment.
Last spring, Hudson County Community College Center for Business & Industry (CBI) began a 120-hour, for-credit program in culinary studies for inmates at Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny, N.J. The program was funded by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
CBI Executive Director Ana Chapman-McCausland said that eleven inmates were hand-picked to participate in the non-kitchen culinary program. “The selected men possessed the ability to do college-level work and had a genuine interest in pursuing culinary studies,” Ms. Chapman-McCausland stated.
Finding the right instructor was critical for teaching the “Food Service Sanitation,” “Storeroom and Purchasing Operations,” and “Theory of Cooking” classes, and adjunct Victor Moruzzi fit the bill. “Victor wanted the students to succeed, and he was able to see the promise in them,” said Ms. Chapman-McCausland. After undergoing training at the Correctional Center and being issued the necessary identification, Mr. Moruzzi began teaching the 40-hour classes in April at the Correctional Center. Classes ended on October 21, 2014.
Of the eleven students who started the program, nine completed the “Food Service Sanitation” course and passed the ServSafe certification examination. Seven students went on to successfully complete “Storeroom and Purchasing Operations,” and four completed “Theory of Cooking.”
“We knew from the start that not everyone would complete the entire program, but we were very happy that nine of the eleven students passed the ServSafe certification examination,” said Hudson County Community College Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Eric Friedman.
Ms. Chapman-McCausland said the environment of the Correctional Center provided a chance for the students to really focus on their studies. Another incentive was knowing that when they were released, they could pursue further studies at HCCC since the credits they earned are transferable.
HCCC President Dr. Glen Gabert reported that one of the Correctional Center students has been released and is now taking classes at the College, and another student is in the process of registering. He said that because of its success, HCCC CBI hopes to continue and expand the program in the future.
“This program is good for the community, good for our local economy, and a great opportunity for those who were formerly incarcerated to successfully start a new life,” Dr. Gabert said.