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Disabled man happily able to help out in jail’s kitchen

SHARE Disabled man happily able to help out in jail’s kitchen

Carol Grant's 22-year-old son Matt goes to jail every day.

But she doesn't mind it.In fact, she's pretty happy about it.

Some days, she even puts in time right alongside him as he pushes food trays, washes dishes and cleans up around the kitchen.

Matt Grant is working in the Utah County Security Center's kitchen, earning $5 an hour for three hours a day and making a difference in the atmosphere around him.

He comes in on the bus from the handicapped group home in Spanish Fork and helps with the lunch rush. He's done that almost every day for the past year since his mother convinced jail authorities it would be in their best interest and his to offer him a job.

For Matt, it's exciting. He sometimes will pause at the doorstep after he arrives and jump up and down. Other times he just claps his hands.

He almost always wears a huge smile under the cap boasting a junior deputy pin.

Those around him start to look pretty happy, too.

"It's amazing what this does," said Bill Vest, jail kitchen director. "He has a calming effect. It makes such a difference."

Vest says the inmates working with Matt treat him like a kid brother. They watch their language more carefully. They hold down the talk and behave more like they're around family.

He's everybody's little brother at 5 feet 7 inches and 205 lbs, says Carol Grant.

And they watch out for him.

One day when a scuffle broke out in the hallway, a kitchen inmate hurried to push Matt into the kitchen office where he'd be safe.

Some inmates have learned a few words in sign language so they can communicate with him better. Matt suffers from chromosome damage and only speaks a few words, but that doesn't keep him from collecting his fair share of hugs and girlfriends from the jail staff.

Almost all are content to work right with him. When there's one who doesn't, Matt picks up on that with an uncanny sixth sense and deliberately avoids him or her.

But that kind of inmate is rare, says his mom, who always works in the kitchen, and is his boss. "He's mostly just one of the guys," Vest said.

"I worried a little about his safety when he started, because we do have some blind spots in here. But we keep him right with us and it's been really interesting."

Matt is best at work that's repetitive, so the routines in the kitchen are perfect for him. He doesn't ever get tired of pushing the trays ahead or of stacking the trays from the washer.

He enjoys getting paid for working and enjoys spending his own money even more, says his mother. "He's the one man in America who likes to shop!"

He's currently sporting a Karl Malone T-shirt he bought with his last check.

He says he wants to work in the jail kitchen "forever." Vest says his job is secure for at least that long.