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Thanksgiving inside the Bannock County Jail

Cooking with convicts
Inmates at the Bannock County Jail prepare a thanksgiving meal on Thursday.

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Every year, on the last Thursday in November, kitchens are hard at work making sure the big meal is ready to go.

For bakers like Cliff Squires, the work can be pretty captivating.

“Oh yeah, I’ve been cooking pretty much all my life, so … I bake all the bakeries, the rolls, the cakes, anything the guys eat, far as bread wise,” Squires said.

With a handful of experience in the kitchen, you’d think Squires’ friends would realize the benefits of having him around.

“Well, some would say that,” he said. “All depends what inmate you talk to.”

At the Bannock County Jail, a handful of minimum-security inmates, like Squires, are responsible for a whole lot of meals. In addition to serving the rest of the jail, they plate food for the juvenile detention center and the crisis center.

“It’s a sizeable amount,” Deputy J. Jackson said. “The jail alone can be anywhere from 250 to 280 [people].”

The inmates on kitchen duty don’t just handle Thanksgiving, they cook every day. But not everyone makes the cut.

“If they have a certain amount of bond and if they’re not in trouble and they behave themselves and have good behavior within the jail, then they can apply to be a cook in the kitchen,” Jackson explained.

With knives tied to the table and supervisors on watch, the inmates plated meals by the dozen Thursday. For squires there’s not much he misses about being free for the holiday.

“Right now? Not a dang thing. It’s cold,” he said. “I was homeless before I came in here, so it’s definitely a benefit being in here but, other than seeing my kids, but other than that, it’s, I don’t know. I’m alright where I’m at.”

All in all, the day of thanks, while full of food, is generally a calmer one inside the confines of the Bannock County Jail.

“It tends to be. Football’s on, so the inmates enjoy football and so they’ll watch football, eat their meals. They usually will have a get together with a couple of their friends in the pods and make like a ramen spread, and they just enjoy the day,” Jackson said.

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