The Clink Charity just opened its third restaurant inside Brixton Prison in south London this week. The restaurant is actually located on the grounds of a prison and the servers and cooks are all inmates. The inmates who work at the restaurant are participating in a program to help them develop job skills and boost their chances of gaining employment upon their release.
The inmate employees, who must have 6 to 18 months left on their sentence to be eligible for the program, work a full 40 hours per week for The Clink and study for their City & Guilds National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) in food preparation, front-of-house service, and industrial cleaning.
Chris Moore, chief executive at the Clink Charity told CNN, "We're offering a credible solution to a major skills shortage within the industry as well as tackling the problem of re-offending."
The Independent reported that the inmates who have worked at the two existing prison restaurants -- in Cardiff and Surrey -- have a recidivism rate of less than 10 percent, much lower than the national recidivism rate of 50 percent.
The restaurant serves upscale food, although the silverware is all plastic and there is no alcohol available. All diners must make reservations at least 48 hours in advance. You need a passport or ID to be admitted and no cell phones, laptops, or sharp objects are allowed. In fact, diners can't even bring more than $80 in cash and are expected to pay by check or to be invoiced.
Despite the strict rules, the restaurants are thriving, The Clink Charity hopes to open another 7 of these restaurants within the next three years. Unfortunately, The Clink has no plans to expand outside of the United Kingdom.
Writer Keri Blakinger is a freelance journalist with an interest in prison reform. You can follow her on Twitter @keribla or you can visit her blog about prisons and prison reform at www.keriblakinger.wordpress.com.