Chicago Restaurateur Runs Her Own Inmate Re-Entry Project


Much is written about government-sponsored prisoner re-entry programs, but some local businesses may run their own, unofficial ones. The Chicago Tribune described one, Edna’s Restaurant, run by Edna Stewart, 68, on Chicago’s West Side. Stewart has hired about 100 ex-offenders in the last five years. Most find their way to her by word of mouth; she has become as well known for her helping hand as for her biscuits and corn bread.

Stewart’s father offered free food to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1980s when he ran a campaign to end housing discrimination from the eatery’s leather booths and laminated wood tables. Stewart said she is continuing her father’s tradition of community service. Most of the former inmates she has hired work at the restaurant about a year or longer, and the minimum-wage jobs often result in higher-paying positions at major hotels or restaurants. Said one regular diner: “If you had more people like Edna, you might not have this big problem with recidivism. Maybe we should all follow her lead.”


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