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Sheriff Michael Hennessy – A Prison Kitchen Vision

“All you have to do is watch some of the old prison movies and you'll see that every jail riot starts in the dining room.”

Sheriff Michael Hennessy knows this — he tells us this — yet the head of the 20th largest jail system in America has agreed to allow two San Francisco chefs and their crews to come into his jail with knives and forks and organic vegetables and teach forty women prisoners how to cook healthy, affordable food which they will sit down and eat together.

 “People who run jails are either naturally or paid to be suspicious and paranoid. And I will say that this class has made some of my staff even more suspicious and paranoid. That’s the constant yin and yang of providing programs in jails and prisons. The safest thing to do is to provide no programs whatsoever to lock someone in her cell twenty-three hours a day and let them out for one hour of recreation. That’s the safest thing. But that's not necessarily the best thing for the community.”

Dimpled, Irish, almost cherubic looking, you’d never pick him out of a lineup as sheriff.  Mike Hennessey started as a lawyer representing prisoners and developing a prisoners’ legal services program. Then he decided to stir things up – he ran for sheriff. He’s been elected seven times by the city and county of San Francisco. Hennessey is known for his daring, some call them “wacky,” ideas. ….

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