I write this having just returned from an extremely enjoyable lunch. The satisfaction came, however, not just from the delicious four courses that were served up, but also from the inspiring eatery that provided it.
For those who are unfamiliar with The Clink Restaurants, this charitable enterprise opens high quality restaurants in prisons that are partly run by the in-mates, with the clientele being made up of staff, invited guests and ‘high street’ visitors. The only concession to being inside a working prison, once you’ve come through security (surrendering your mobile and other banned items en route) is the plastic cutlery and lack of alcohol.
The idea is to give the in-mates (who have to be in the last year of their sentence and inside for relatively low-level crimes in order to be employed) the skills and experience to forge a career for themselves once they leave, while also studying for accredited NVQs. And it really does work. The statistics show a truly impressive 49% reduction in reoffending, while one inspirational in-mate we were lucky enough to speak to told us he had already been offered two jobs – and he had only been working in The Clink for two months.
I’d just like to thanks the group restaurant ambassador Vic Laws for his kind invite; to encourage caterers to look at The Clink’s work, as many of you already, I know, take on graduates; and to ask you to keep your eyes peeled to these pages in future, as we will be taking a closer look at some of the initiatives that are being run by the charity, including the new Clink Café in Manchester. And if you fancy treating yourself, the fact that the Brixton branch that I visited is currently rated as the tenth best restaurant in London by TripAdvisor should provide all the encouragement you need.