Embassy Sponsored Culinary arts program in Rustavi #16 prison (February 3)
Nineteen inmates at the Rustavi #16 prison have successfully completed the first prison culinary course, funded by the U.S. Embassy’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Deputy Chief of Mission Nicholas Berliner personally congratulated participants on this achievement and enjoyed trying their food. This innovative program aims to give inmates the skills they need after release to find gainful employment and reintegrate into society.
DCM’s comments to the inside press team of the Ministry of Corrections:
Question about the importance of the program
DCM Nicolas Berliner: This is very important program and I would commend the Ministry of Corrections for their vision and for doing this. We are very happy, as the United States Embassy, to assist with this because what this is doing is teaching these inmates new skills and it’s preparing them for life once they are outside of this facility, which of course is the ultimate goal of rehabilitation and reintegration of these people into society. So providing them with the skills that they need to be able to get good and decently paying jobs when they finish their time here helps to ensure their success and prevents recidivism. This is an important principle for any kind of corrections system, so I think this is an excellent project—something that we hope will continue, and perhaps the Ministry will be able to extend it to other facilities.
DCM’s comments to Food TV:
Question about the importance of the event
DCM Nicolas Berliner: First of all, this is a facility that we have been supporting both with reconstruction, rehabilitation, and reform of this facility and this project is a part of that. The effort here is to help these inmates once they complete their sentences and are released so that they can have an opportunity to find jobs, actually find employment, which for the Ministry of Corrections is an important element to help reduce repeat instances of recidivism. The idea is that if people have economic opportunities there is a better chance they are actually going to become productive and participatory members of society. So, that’s the goal here. We actually brought few months ago the celebrity chef Ben Ford here and he did a class with some of these inmates in this facility.
Question about the embassy as an initiator of the program
DCM Nicolas Berliner: Well again, we have done this in partnership with the Ministry and the credit also goes to them. It is certainly our hope that with our support and initiative these are projects that can be carried forward and also may be extended to other facilities here in Georgia. These kinds of programs are important to the reform of any sort of prisoner penitentiary system.
Question about the similar programs in other countries of Caucasus region
DCM Nicolas Berliner: I believe this program is unique for the Caucasus region, yes. And, we have been working on this corrections program for about the last three or four years here in Georgia and are looking to really help to transform the system here and make sure that some things that happened in the past will also not be repeated.
Comment about the results of the program
DCM Nicolas Berliner: It is not a coincidence that the Ministry that runs this institution is called the Ministry of Corrections. Again, the idea is to address some of the underlying issues that perhaps led to whatever offences resulted in these people being here—to give them an opportunity to serve to rebuild their lives and ultimately to get a second chance. This is all about a second chance; I think we do believe in second chances for people.
DCM Nicolas Berliner: We certainly hope that a lot of them will have opportunities to find jobs and to put these skills to use. Obviously, this is just the beginning. You know, you do not become a Michelin chef in six months, but this gives them a start and hopefully they can also build on that and be inspired to follow through and to be, again, contributing, productive members of society because that is the goal of this program.