CoreCivic has updated its Privacy Policy for California residents.


New Program Helps Cook Up Restaurant Industry Skills

CoreCivic | 3/22/24 10:29 AM

Circumstantial challenges for justice-involved individuals don't end at the end of their sentence. Beyond serving their time, justice-involved individuals can often face a myriad of obstacles outside of incarceration as a result of having a criminal background. One such challenge is securing gainful employment after release. And, without a marketable skill to bring to potential employers, newly released individuals will be unable to land a steady job.

CoreCivic's Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, has launched the Advanced Skills, Career Education, New Development (ASCEND) program to equip returning citizens with marketable job skills.  

A pilot program, ASCEND is operated in partnership with Trinity Development Group. Through ASCEND, Trinity will train participating residents to become certified in different aspects of professional food service. This on-the-job learning will include everything from managing food costs to minimizing waste, determining portion sizes, and calculating recipe conversions, to working with thermometers, maintaining food inventory, learning deep-cleaning techniques, and more.

“It takes approximately three months [to complete] each section,” said Carol Wallace, assistant warden at Saguaro. “For example, if a resident is going to learn to be a head cook in the kitchen, that would take three months for them to get certified in that.”

In recent months, interviews were underway for two initial training slots. One resident was being selected to train as a head cook and another to serve in a warehouse/inventory management role. To qualify for interviews, residents were required to fill out formal applications and go through the same kind of interview process they would for a job upon reentry.

Program staff at Saguaro are taking a phase-in approach to enrollment in the ASCEND program instead of onboarding several students at once.

“We’re starting out slow, but I think we need to, so we can work out any kinks and make sure it’s a smooth-running program,” Wallace said. “That way, we have a quality program as opposed to just a quantity program.”

After moving through each three-month certification period, ASCEND participants will have a chance to practice their skills while helping others.

“Once they’ve mastered that particular area, they move throughout the kitchen, and they can also become peer teachers to other residents who start becoming part of the program,” Wallace said.

The ASCEND program is designed to help inmates build marketable skills along with their self-esteem. Once they finish training, they will be qualified to apply for real-world jobs in kitchen prep, dish washing, cooking, and custodial work. For students who already have backgrounds in the culinary field, the certifications will reinforce their expertise and commitment.

  • Share
  • Share on LinkedIn
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter

Topics: Reducing Recidivism, News