Prisoner restaurant Clink Cymru opens in Cardiff

Hywel Griffith has a taste of life in The Clink

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A restaurant situated next door to a south Wales prison and staffed by inmates has opened to the public.

More than 30 low risk prisoners from Cardiff and Prescoed jails work at The Clink Cymru, a 96-cover restaurant next to Cardiff prison.

Set up by The Clink charity and the prison service, it is aimed at reducing reoffending rates by helping low-risk prisoners develop employable skills.

The charity said the project was "a positive influence" on rehabilitation.

The inmates, all Category D, work full-time in the restaurant and its kitchen, before returning to their prisons at the end of the day.

In doing so they are training towards gaining City and Guilds NVQ qualifications and, on their release, the charity will help them find employment within the Welsh catering and hospitality industry.

Training

A further 15 prisoners work within the farms and gardens department at Prescoed jail, in Usk, Monmouthshire, where they plant, maintain and harvest crops while working towards horticultural qualifications.

Place mats at The Clink Cymru restaurant The restaurant is designed to look like a like a high-end restaurant

Welsh-born Michelin star-winning chef Stephen Terry has been appointed chef ambassador of The Clink Cymru.

The restaurant has been designed to look like a high-end restaurant using lighting, furniture and finishing touches that have been created by prisoners from across the UK.

It is currently open to the general public for breakfast and lunch from Monday to Friday.

From January, it is planned to open for evening reservations from Monday to Thursday.

Start Quote

Each year we hope to release 50 well trained and highly qualified graduates into employment ”

End Quote Jeremy Wright UK Prisons Minister

The restaurant was officially opened by UK prisons minister Jeremy Wright.

He said: "Each year we hope to release 50 well trained and highly qualified graduates into employment within the hospitality and farming industry."

The concept was devised by award-winning chef Alberto Crisci, who set up a similar restaurant at High Down prison in Surrey in 2009.

The charity said fewer than 30% of those participating in the scheme had found themselves back behind bars, compared with the UK average reoffending rate of 61%.

"I wanted to give something back and help people," said Mr Crisci.

'Vital experience'

"I was amazed by some of the talents that some of the inmates had, and it seemed to me that it was such a waste these talents were not put to good use.

ABOUT THE RESTAURANT

For every Clink Restaurant that is built approximately £500,000 of funding is required.

As The Clink Cymru is situated outside the walls of Cardiff prison, diners are not subjected to the same checks as at HMP High Down.

There, they must leave their belongings in lockers before going through prison security.

For the same reason the cutlery in The Clink Cymru is made of metal as opposed to plastic.

Diners must pre-book and there is no alcohol on the premises.

Source: The Clink Charity

"So, setting up a restaurant and a system where prisoners would get qualifications as well vital experience seemed like the next logical step."

Richard Booty, governor of HMP Cardiff Prison, said the project was not about being nice to prisoners or going soft on them.

"Prison is about learning to be respectful and decent members of society," said Mr Booty.

"Part of my mission is to ensure that the public remains protected but another is to reduce the risk of reoffending for those who will be released.

"This scheme would not be running if there was not some positive outcomes at the end of it."

The prisoners working at The Clink Cymru will be paid £12 a week in return for 39 hours' work split over five days.

'Shocked and outraged'

The restaurant opening follows a row over prisoners from HMP Prescoed working in a call centre in Cardiff on low wages.

Start Quote

Part of my mission is to ensure that the public remains protected but another is to reduce the risk of reoffending”

End Quote Richard Booty Governor, HMP Cardiff

Both that scheme and the restaurant have been criticised by a group campaigning to protect jobs.

The Right to Work campaign said it was "shocked and outraged" at the low pay offered to prisoners.

"At the moment in Britain 1 in 12 people are unemployed while more than 20% of young people aged 16-24 are without work," said the group in a statement.

"These prison labour schemes will only accelerate this trend as firms out source operations into prisons in a bid to boost profits."

The Ministry of Justice said the prisoners' wages were in line with remuneration offered across the prison service for different types of skilled labour.

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