Taken from HMP High Down’s ‘regime information’ page online:
The restaurant opened in 2009, it provides a more varied training programme for up to 28 prisoners and includes Food Service NVQ Level 2 as well as a diploma in professional cookery and also encourages the employment of ex-offenders into the hospitality industry. The Clink also offers prisoners mentoring upon release and this includes support with employment and accommodation. The re offending rate for 2012 for Clink graduates was down to 5% against a national average of 47% within the first year.
The Clink is a multi award winning restaurant and in 2010 won a coveted Catey award for training and also won the Longford prize in 2011.
We are currently the holders of Best Overall Restaurant In Time & Leisure Magazine.
And from The Clink’s own webpage:
The sole aim of The Clink Charity is to reduce reoffending rates of ex-offenders by training prisoners and placing graduates into employment in the hospitality and horticulture industries upon release. Since launching, the charity has achieved incredible results. The latest statistics are currently being independently examined and will be published later this year.
Anyone over 16 can visit the restaurant for breakfast/lunch/tea, within a working day’s hours, essentially (although HMP Brixton’s restaurant has recently acquired permission for Thursday evening gourmet dining and also operates a Sunday lunch). You just need to book in advance, allow time to get through security checks on arrival and remember your passport or driving licence.
We were checked in and out by our host along with various keys, through gates, electronic doors, across a drizzly concrete ballasted yard, replete with razor wire atop high fences. It’s sobering to say the least. It’s a disorientating experience: once you are in to the restaurant space, the moment you are greeted by smiling young men, smart in checked waistcoats, genuinely seeming glad to see you and look after your needs, taking coats, offering drinks and menus; you could be in any smart restaurant. The initial greeting, the decor, the lighting, the loos, the open kitchen, the slate walls, the general feel, all manages to dissuade you of any awareness that you are within prison walls; it’s quite remarkable.
Kerri remarked afterwards to the creator/founder of The Clink, and former west end chef, Al
, upon how warm the greeting was. 'They are genuinely glad to see you,’ he replied, 'they are, they are really are happy to meet people who they don’t see every day.’ It was evident. One thing to note though, you can’t tip. You’ll find envelopes on your table to donate to the charity should you wish, but the prisoners can’t accept tips on top of the small wage they are paid as they train and work towards rehabilitation and employment beyond the gates.
Jonny, events’ manager and trainer, told us of one man, late 50s, who’d been in prison for ten years; on release, he was working at a party for the Events arm. He told us how much he enjoyed working the event having not been at a party for a decade; even though he wasn’t a party guest, he got such pleasure from delivering the hospitality side of things and making others happy.
Not surprisingly, The Guardian
sent a reviewer along in its early days, there are some engaging stories from then too.