By Kurt Chirbas
Inmates at two El Dorado County jails continue to earn bragging rights for their superior culinary skills, even if they aren't then bragging about it.
They won a total of 31 ribbons from the El Dorado County fair last month. It is the largest haul of awards yet for participants of a program that teaches cooking and baking in an attempt to reduce recidivism rates.
"For a lot of them, they have never won anything in their lives; they've never been recognized for anything," said Capt. Randy Peshon, of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department.
The program, established in 2007 through a partnership between the El Dorado County Sherrif's Department and the Lake Tahoe Community College, has become a cornerstone of the county's response to AB 109, legislation that allows non-serious offenders to serve their sentence in county jails instead of state prisons.
There are two reasons why the program has been successful, said Peshon. It both gives inmates marketable skills and a sense of pride.
He described what inmates typically do with the ribbons won each June at the fair baking contests each June. "They are very, very proud, but they don't want to brag. They put their ribbons in their pockets ... and hope that you about ask about it. And then, when you say, 'Hey, it looks like you're one of the ribbon winners,' you can just see the pride on their faces."
Peshon added, "I can pretty positively say that very few inmates who have made it through the program come back to jail, and if they do, it is for a very short time."
His favorite baked goods made by inmates? "The cinnamon rolls are to die for."