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Cook At Frederick Jail ‘Treated Them Fair, Firm’ In 39-Year Career

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DANIEL J. GROSS
The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Lorraine Jackson hadn’t worked long as a jail cook before she experienced her first run-in with inmates trying to break out.

“I heard a person screaming, `Help! Help! Help!’ There was a lot of ruckus going on behind the door,” she said. “When an officer came down to see what was going on they attacked him and tied him up. Two inmates came through the kitchen door and said they wanted the keys. … I took off running like a bat out of you know what. They almost had me by my leg.”

The startling incident is one of many stories from her 39-year career at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center.

Jackson, 61, of Frederick, left her work at the jail July 1 and is now settling into retirement after years of cooking and serving food to Frederick County’s inmates.

Those who know Jackson said she was a blessing to the jail and its inmates.

“She treated them fair, firm and impartial. She had mutual respect from the inmates and they admired her for who she was,” said George Frye, a retired detention center warehouse supervisor. “I can’t say enough good about her.”

Now on Marcie’s Choice Lane with space for about 300 inmates, Frederick’s jail was once on South Street, and that’s where Jackson began her career.

Before that, in the early 1970s, she was a cook at the now-defunct Francis Scott Key Hotel on Patrick Street.

Her mother, Maybelle Giles, said she was proud of Jackson for staying on at the detention center for so long. Giles worked as a cook alongside her daughter for several years.

“She was a little easier on (the inmates) than I was,” Giles said.

Jackson’s role proved to be about more than preparing meals every day.

Her favorite part of the job was the people, both co-workers and inmates, to whom she ministered whenever she had the chance, she said.

“I was taught to treat people the way you want to be treated,” she said. “I ministered to them, and they would ask to pray together and talk about their issues.”

Many former inmates now recognize Jackson on the street and express their gratitude to her for treating them as equals, she said.

Famous for her fried chicken and potato salad, she said she cooked the food, served three meals per day, and trained inmate workers as a jail cook and eventual kitchen supervisor.

Since retiring July 1, she has been spending time with her granddaughter, Ahava Thomas, and cooking for herself for a change.

“She’s teaching me how to make meatloaf and lasagna and baked goods and cakes,” the 12-year-old said.

She can tell her grandmother enjoyed her career when she answers telephone calls by saying, “Food Service, this is Lorraine,” Ahava said.

Jackson also looks forward to getting more involved in her church, First Love International Ministries, and plans to run a Sunday school program for children, she said.

When asked why she didn’t stay with the job long enough to reach 40 years she said, “it’s just a number.”

“I had reached that point when I was ready to move on. … But I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”

Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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