The Clink, the U.K. hospitality charity that offers prisoners training in restaurant work as a means of rehabilitation, could decrease the likelihood of reoffending, according to research by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) reported by the BBC.
Graduates of the charity’s partnership scheme with Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMP,) whose flagship ‘prison restaurant’ operates at Brixton Prison, had a reoffending rate of 11 percent, compared with 32 percent for similar inmates who were not involved in the project, according to the BBC. This is in comparison to broader rates of reoffending: current figures say that 37 percent of adults released from custody have reoffended within a year, with those released from sentences under a year — which are in line to be scrapped — reoffending rate is 62 percent.
The Brixton restaurant serves as training environment: it offers accredited qualifications under City & Guilds NVQs in food and beverage service; professional cookery; and food hygiene, and supports graduates after release to find employment and training to continue their career. Placements have included Hawksmoor, the acclaimed group of London steak restaurants, Wahaca, the Mexican restaurant chain, and Royal Lancaster Hotel.
The Clink, which has four restaurants across the country, has found a formula that works at a time when the U.K.’s prisons are overpopulated and causing inmates harm as a result. There are more prisons exhibiting cause for “serious concern” in the U.K. now, in 2019, than since records began. New “innovations” like HMP Berwyn have been criticised for enforcing shared cells and falling behind on capacity, leaving older, more dilapidated prisons to become increasingly overcrowded. 2010 — 2017 saw the Conservatives’ austerity cuts slash the number of prison officers by 25 percent, leading to assaults rising by a fifth and self harm by a quarter in the year to September 2018. Multiple private prisons have been taken back by the MoJ after failing to meet appropriate standards of care.
The charity does not claim, and has never claimed to be a cure for what is an endemic problem caused by government policy and cuts, but it shows that, when backed properly, rehabilitative initiatives can work. It is the hope that this attitude can spread further, with the government backing it needs to be transformative.