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Sen. Rob Portman Lauds Edwins Restaurant as Model Training Program for Ex-Prisoners

By: Simone Jasper,
Cleveland PLain Dealer
July 17, 2015

CLEVELAND, Ohio — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman toured Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute in Shaker Square Friday to learn about its efforts to teach restaurant industry skills to formerly incarcerated men and women.

Edwins students undergo a six-month training period in the French restaurant, in which they work in the restaurant’s kitchen and dining room. The program offers graduates a chance to work in restaurant industry careers.

Brandon Chrostowski, the restaurant’s founder and CEO, led the Friday tour.

Portman said he was impressed with this program and others in the region.

“Northeast Ohio is on the cutting edge of helping people when they get out of prison,” he said.

In June, Portman introduced a new version of legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act, a law that supports state and local reentry programs. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, also introduced the bipartisan bill.

When he was a congressman, Portman, a Cincinnati Republican, co-authored the original act with the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones. The bill passed into law in 2008.

The reauthorized legislation would help keep communities safer, save taxpayer money and help ex-offenders reach their potential, Portman said.

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, the state recidivism rate was 27.1 percent last year, below the national average of 49.7 percent.

Portman said he’d like to see the Ohio recidivism rate get lower. He thinks Edwins, which has never had a graduate re-offend, is a good model.

“This is a program that ought to be studied and copied because it’s working,” Portman said.

David James Jackson, a student at Edwins, said it was hard for him to find jobs before entering the program.

“I like to cook, and I really want to make a positive difference for tomorrow—not only for myself but for my community,” he said. “And all of those things are embodied right here at Edwins.”