March 23rd, 2012
12:30 PM ET
Share this on:

"Most of the time in culinary, your background doesn't matter."

Eating in prison may not sound too appealing, but the lunch menu at a minimum-security facility in Concord, Massachusetts may change your mind. CNN Photojournalist Bob Crowley shows us how some inmates there at the Fife and Drum restaurant are cooking and serving up lunch to the public, all for just three dollars and twenty-one cents.

Previously - Last orders – death row menu requests and Inmates grow roots as jailhouse farmers and Your steak was cooked by a criminal

Posted by:
Filed under: Prison • Restaurants

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. backlink

    After climbing a fantastic hill, one only finds that there are a great deal of a great deal more hills to climb. backlink

    April 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  2. Melissa

    Wow, I am shocked at how many uneducated and ignorant people commented on this video. Your ignorance clearly shows you shouldn't speak on issues you factually know nothing about. Unless you have actually served time in prison then you will know NOTHING about what it is like to live a portion of your life in prison and how a chance at change is the only light at the end of a dark tunnel. Granted not ALL inmates feel this way. Are there ever any certanties in life...NO. But people go to prison for a variety of different reasons and do you honestly think they are going to put the criminally insane inmates in the kitchen serving your food. NO. These inmates are carefully selected from the mass poulation based on several factors that consider them a good fit. This is considered a benefit to these inmates, not SLAVE labor. Haven't you ever heard of second chances...this is what this program and many other programs in penal institutions are designed to do. Some of these inmates were never shown how to properly interact with people and have never held a real job in their life. This experince has the potential to change their life FOREVER. Shame on you for denying them that chance. It's these programs here that help the recidivism rate and turn "criminals" into law abbiding citizens. People change, people learn and people grow if given the chance. The funny part is the food you get in this restaurant is probably better handled than most restaurants ran out in the free world. Once again ignorance is bliss I guess! Step out of your bubble and stop judging because you just never could find yourself behind the wall someday looking for the same opportunity.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Cathie

      I truly feel these inmates deserve a chance at redemption. Learning the skill of cooking will be an enormous value to their personal lives and will allow them to contribute as valuable members of society. I look forward to CNN discovering additional ways of positive influence in the population that have had a rough life, whether this is an occurrance through ignorance, or due to behavioral or mental health issues.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  3. Bill A

    The Fife and Drum is an excellent idea. It teaches team and interpersonal skills to those who need it most to make it on the outside. Corrections should be about that and not simply warehousing people without improving them. I would love to see a program like that started out here. Maybe teaching some other skills via an auto repair shop or becoming a CNC machinist would give these guys a second change to become productive citizens.

    March 26, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Ann

      Some of the programs we have include learning to be a personal trainer, a barber, an electrician, and qualifying for your CDL (the classroom part only, of course – we can't have them actually driving trucks). We try to focus on fields where having a record won't necessarily disqualify you from a job.

      March 27, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  4. Thomas

    Do they get paid minimum wage?

    March 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Aletheya


      March 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  5. Amber

    You guys are such ignoramuses. Had you read the article (it was very short, so it couldn't have been that hard) you would have realized these inmates are from low security prison. Thus, they are in a half way house. Inmates in a half way house are allowed to leave for the day to go work. For all you know, your privileged behind may just be eating that scrumptious meal that was possibly made by a convict. Quit judging these people who are able to be rehabilitated. If they weren't seen fit to be able to better themselves, I'm damn sure they wouldn't be serving you food.

    March 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Ann

      Actually, a low-security prison is very different from a halfway house. However, the article said minimum security, which is different from both. I basically agree with most of your other points, but you should be careful about who you are calling an ignoramus.

      March 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  6. ktpnkrunk

    Yeah, that's what I want... to eat somewhere where criminals are handling my food. It would be interesting to have guys like Jeffrey Dahmer in the kitchen though.

    March 26, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Aletheya

      Your comment gets the Doofus of the Day award. Congrats.

      March 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  7. darinart

    Government sponsored exploited labor is not beneficial or funny! Its a job killer. Every plate of food they serve is a plate of food that is not served by a TAXPAYING, federally mandated minimum wage paying restaurant. All you people who find this cute, imagine this prison starting up in an industry that you and you family get your livelihood from. You cannot compete in construction, farming or manufacturing with exploited labor making far less than a dollar an hour. Not to mention its just plain wrong to exploit(Not all want to participate)

    March 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • darinart's Doctor

      Ok ... who swapped out derwood's meds for placebo's again?

      March 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Red2million

      Tell me about it. I think it's good to give the inmates skills they can use when they're released, but they can certainly put legitimate businesses under. I moved back to MD from TX 20 years ago, because I had a great job down there working in an office in a broom factory. Well, the local prison started making the same brooms, and they of course were paying their workers pennys per hour. Our factory lasted about a year after that.

      March 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Aletheya

      So your alternative to teaching them skills that will make them employable on the outside is ... what? Locking them up forever? Turning them loose with no skills so they recidivate? Locking them up with the hard core criminals so they can become hard core criminals too? These men are working hard to rehabilitate, and should be applauded, so they too can become law-abiding, tax paying citizens.

      March 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  8. giovannucci

    I had lunch here a couple of weeks ago and it was great. A little scary getting there, but worth it. The waiter was good, he got all five orders correct without writing it down. The food was good and the atmosphere was OK. There were constant reminders of where we were. One thing that stood out in my mind was watching the inmates training dogs in the courtyard outside the restaurant. I will definitely go back.

    March 26, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  9. kamana

    One of the few opportunities an inmate can learn not just a trade or profession but a business as well. Cooking is an art more than a science and there are many persons who are not aware that they posses the artistry to make a fine chef.

    March 25, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • geoff

      Cookng is, first and foremaost, a craft that, in some instances, can become art. Same as carpentry.

      March 26, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  10. Gerneral

    I think it's a cool program if it's voluntary. There should be all sorts of things they could do to pass the time in a positive way.

    March 25, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  11. andy

    i would eat the h3ll out of that! but i would ask the waiter for some out of their personal "no dick cheese and farts" stash

    March 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • gene1o

      still better than a big mac

      March 25, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  12. Fritton

    Slave labor takes many different forms I guess. Keep in mind that most prison "workers" are paid less than a dollar an hour and are punished with solitary confinement if they don't work. We've utilized forced labor is so many aspects of our society now that people aren't even raising an eyebrow when prisoners are being used to serve tourists.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Maureen

      Fritton, They are PRISONERS, not slaves. They are there because they CHOSE to commit crimes. If they CHOOSE not to work and get sent to solitary they have brought it on themselves, they are not victims. Getting paid for work is a benny, not a right if you are in prison because you chose to commit a crime. Serving customers in a restaurant that they run provides an opportunity for them to take a little pride in their work and themselves. That's a positive step forward to helping them become responsible and independant.

      March 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
      • Fritton

        According to your absolutely insane logic then it is perfectly acceptable to treat them any way we want, with no limits. The simple fact is that one in 15 of us will spend time in prison. Less than half for any sort of violent crime. We have a higher imprisonment rate that any other country in the world. (Land of the Free). Considering such statistics, do you really feel it's acceptable to treat our prisoners as slaves as well?

        March 25, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
        • Bunsen Honeydew

          Maureen, it is pointless to argue with people like this.

          March 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
        • Beaver Cleaver

          Fritton, do not be hatin' on slavery, it worked pretty well for a long time, at least back then there was very little unemployment. People had full time jobs and a place to live. Aside from a little back room hankerin' for the good looking young ones, life was good. Ask our founding fathers all about it and they would probably still want it, hands down. I think we should try it again. It would be completely voluntary of course, no illegal activities and taxes would be levied. Let's give it a try!

          March 26, 2012 at 4:22 am |
        • Fritton's Remedial Reading Professor

          Epic Fail. It's Summer school for you.

          March 26, 2012 at 6:20 am |
        • Aletheya

          Your argument is so bizarre I have to wonder if you're trolling. On the chance you're not: when you commit a felony, you have given up your freedom and a subset of your civil rights. You are involuntarily confined, and have to do what you're told. This is not slavery, it's punishment, and is practiced in various forms by all nations. Being taught a skill for little pay it not slavery, it is part of rehabilitation, so they have some way of supporting themselves once they are released. It also gives inmates something to do, so they're not just staring at their cell walls, slowly going nuts. Your comments indicate you have absolutely no experience with the correctional system.

          March 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
        • Fritton

          Out of the three replies to my comment there's only one that even tries to make a point beyond: "You're wrong!". Sadly, the one response that even tried to put any thought into it still seems to argue that we are free to demand that our prisoners perform menial labor for tourists in order to make money for the prison itself as slave labor for no better reason than: "They're criminals". Look into prison labor at some point. Look into how the prisoners are punished if they refuse to work for pennies. Look into how many large companies profit off them instead of actually paying people minimum wage. Look into how many of our own people are forced into prison slave labor compared to every other country in the world. Look into our privatized, for-profit prison companies like CCA. Calling slaves "prisoners" doesn't mean they aren't still slaves. Some people are buying the "they are learning a trade!" bs. How many short order cooks (learning a trade) do you think work in that prison restaurant as opposed to bus boys clearing trash, janitors cleaning the floors (again, for pennies) and dish washers?

          March 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • gene1o

      the prison-industrial complex is VERY profitable, and began with the end of the civil war.

      March 25, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Jeff

      Fine ... lets pay Prison workers $15 / Hour (approx. $30k/year) and then have them pay taxes, health insurance, food costs, and rent ..... and if they want bigger cells or better food, that will cost more. That will probably gie them the best training for the real world.
      You need to understand that while they are paid very little, they are there as punishment and they have no real expenses to pay.

      March 26, 2012 at 11:45 am |
      • Fritton

        You need to understand that the only reason YOU aren't there is because you haven't been caught yet. Experts estimate that by the time the average American reaches adulthood they've committed at least 3 felonies. We imprison more of our own people than any other country in the world. Yes they are there for punishment, but you might want to consider why we are punishing so many people with prison/slave labor when we've reached the point that we cage 12 to 15 times as many of our own people as nearly every other first world nation.

        Perhaps it's because it's profitable?

        March 26, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • darinart

      What about TAXPAYING restaurants who can not compete due to the fact that federal law requires them to pay a minimum wage. Business this forced labor prison does takes away from hardworking, taxpaying, honest fair wage paying business.
      I bet if you owned a construction business and your competition is a construction outfit using inmate labor making 80 cents an hour you would very much not be pleased. You would feel further abused by your government.

      March 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
      • Johnny

        Forced prisoner labor was still being used on the road connecting the Florida Keys the last time I was there; around 2002 or 2003. I wonder if local road crews were upset by that.

        March 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Daniel Schreiber

      I laud your sympathy for the prisoners (few enough have the sensitivity to show it), but it is unlikely that the work is mandatory or that failing to work results in solitary confinement. Working in prison is (believe it or not) a privilege.

      March 26, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
      • Ann

        Actually, the one point Fritton is right about is that inmates are disciplined for refusing to work. (I'm speaking as someone who has 20 years correctional experience). Typically, they may be put in a disciplinary housing unit for a couple of weeks (not solitary), or lose certain privileges such as visits or phone calls. They're not keel-hauled or beaten, believe me.

        In our system, all inmates are required to work. First, because it keeps them busy and out of trouble. Second, because it can teach them job skills. As I said below, even the most menial job (cleaning the housing unit, for example) at least gives the inmate experience of dealing with a boss, working with others, and learning to follow directions. The more complicated jobs – factory work, electrician, etc. – are even better at preparing them for outside work, and are often sought after.

        Finally, inmates are required to work because it helps keep costs down. Inmates cook the food, maintain the grounds, unload supplies in the warehouse, and take out the trash. If we had to hire extra staff to do all that, it would cost a fortune – and we'd still have the problem of finding a way to keep these guys busy.

        Most inmates here get the concept that work is a good idea. Unfortunately, there are some that sound a lot like Fritton, talking about "slave labor" and how everything's the government's fault. I've had drug dealers tell me that, if I've ever driven 5 mph above the speed limit, then I'm a criminal, too, and I should be right there in prison with them. Um, no, but guys like that have their minds made up and just don't want to listen to anything that even hints they might be responsible for their own situation. As they say, "ya can't fix stupid."

        March 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  13. ghosty1

    McDonalds doesnt count as a restaurant, for real....

    March 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  14. Guest

    The last picture told me everything I wanted to know
    Knives are secured with a cable and lock
    Just make sure no one puts their d1ck in the food

    March 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Vito@Guest

      That wasn't very nice..I just got some fresh liver from cell # 5 with that knife.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  15. gina

    very good article

    March 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  16. Chef Sun

    As a chef, this is very near and dear to me on a truly personal level. If they had this sort of program in NYC, I'd love to participate in it.

    March 24, 2012 at 4:14 am |
    • ghosty1

      they have lots of prisoners and eateries in NYC. are ya nuts? and where are you a chef, so that i can advise others to NOT eat there....

      March 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  17. jamer

    Top ramen surprise 4 every one

    March 23, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  18. Observer

    I love a captive audience!

    March 23, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  19. Chloe

    make sure they wash hands before cooking (smile)

    March 23, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  20. Ann

    Its a great idea. There's no use in having vocational classes to try to turn inmates into bank tellers – they'll never get a job. This gives them the chance at a future – even if it just helps them become better able to cook for their families.

    March 23, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Fritton

      How many of them are actually learning "how to cook" versus how many of them are learning to bus tables, clean floors and wash dishes?

      Do you think perhaps that the article is putting a positive spin on the fact that it's yet another money making prison venture taking advantage of slave labor?

      March 26, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
      • Ann

        Even if they're just doing housekeeping chores or bussing (busing?) tables, they're learning valuable skills that a lot of them don't have when they come to prison – such as, learning to follow instructions, showing up for work, dealing with coworkers/customers, and being a responsible employee. This is nothing like slave labor. Of COURSE they're paid less than minimum wage. They have no expenses. Their rent, food, clothing, all their basic needs are covered.

        March 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  21. USA

    Good for them. A Trade they can do.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  22. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Still have to make wine in the toilet, though.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  23. Elwood Blues

    I learned how to Master my best dish at this place...Toast–Dry. It took me awhile.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • ForReal

      Having worked in restaurants for 15+ years in most capacities, I would be honored to eat a dish that was prepared by an
      inmate that takes pride in what he or she does. I've seen overqualified and arrogant people produce horrible food. I've also seen the lowest paid employees produce delicious food.

      The underlying factor for me is that if you take pride in what you do, and strive to improve yourself, you can not help but
      create something that transcends your circumstances, and others will notice.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
| Part of

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,974 other followers