Rikers Island inmates prepare Thanksgiving dinners for city’s homeless

RIKERS ISLAND — It's a Thanksgiving service project from the unlikeliest of places — Rikers Island.

Inside the jail's kitchen, inmates prepared a massive turkey dinner. Not for themselves, but for the less fortunate on the streets who don't have home-cooked meals this holiday season.

PIX11 was granted exclusive access inside the Rikers kitchen, where inmates prepped and cooked 50 turkeys and all the fixings that will feed an estimated 500 people.

"This is a program that is part of the Commissioner's reform agenda," Deputy Commissioner James Walsh said.

For the past year, PIX11 has highlighted the need for reform in an all too familiar environment plagued with violence.

Inmates told PIX11 that in the past, there were few programs available that would actually help better their lives and prepare them for a more positive life in society.

But now, these inmates are part of the jail's I-CAN program, which is aimed at counseling inmates and providing classes to help them get their lives back on track.

The inmates who prepared the turkey dinners are part of a culinary program that will provide them skills and certification to get a job in that field when they are released.

However, it is up to the inmates themselves to want to make a change in the future.

"Before it was, 'do your time and get out,'" inmate Bernard Jeffreys said. "Then you find yourself back doing the same thing."

But Jeffreys says that's not the case anymore. He said the program has helped him learn the importance of teamwork while maintaining a positive attitude.

Jeffreys hopes to get a job in the culinary world when he is released.

The turkeys were donated by the Osborne Association and have been delivered to two churches in Manhattan.