The Times reports today that the charity, CLINK, that runs restaurants in prisons is to expand from having four such restaurants to no fewer than 74. The charity trains inmates to work as chefs as part of the Government’s efforts to combat reoffending. Research suggests that such training significantly cuts reoffending.
It is a very good scheme. I speak from experience having once dined, some years ago, at the Clink restaurant at High Down Prison in Surrey. I was there on an official parliamentary visit, as a member of the Joint Committee on the Draft Voter Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill, considering whether prisoners should be allowed to vote in parliamentary elections. The restaurant was professional in every respect – design, food, and service. The food was excellent. You would not know you were dining in a prison. Not surprisingly, you could not avoid the fact in terms of coming to the restaurant – the public can dine there, but to say it is ‘open’ to the public perhaps is a little misleading, given the obvious security steps to getting in – but once in, it is a really pleasant environment.
On this particular visit, we were delayed at the end of the meal. The regular count of prisoners had revealed one missing, so all prisoners had to return to their cells. Only the professional staff, who train the prisoners, remained. I was sat next to the Governor. I think he had visions of his career ending if he were to lose a prisoner during a visit by parliamentarians. In the event, all was well. The recount showed everyone present.
I really do commend the scheme. If you are near a prison that opens a Clink restaurant, do make the effort to go. You are not only supporting a worthwhile cause, but you also get a fine dining experience.