Imagine stepping into a highly secure facility, surrounded by sturdy concrete walls and razor wire. As you surrender your phones, you enter a restaurant adorned with barred windows, plastic cutlery, and walls adorned with emergency buttons. The experience, as raved about in countless online reviews, is truly extraordinary.
By transforming lives and offering a second chance, these prison restaurants are making a significant impact in the culinary world and society as a whole.
The Clink Restaurants: A Revolutionary Project with a Powerful Concept
The origin of the word “clink” can be traced back to its colloquial use as slang for prison or jail cell in UK English. This slang term stems from “The Clink,” a historic prison in Southwark that has been in existence since 1144 CE. Over time, the word “clink” has become synonymous with prisons in the UK. The Clink Charity, founded by Alberto Crisci, the catering manager at HM Prison High Down, aims to provide inmates with valuable skills to run restaurants. In 2009, the first restaurant was established, recognizing the potential for inmates to thrive with the right training.
The Clink Charity
The Clink Charity partners with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to reduce reoffending rates by providing inmates with training and rehabilitation programs. These programs focus on helping prisoners reintegrate into society after their release. Participants, who have six to 18 months left in their sentence, receive professional training in kitchen work, culinary skills, professional cooking, food hygiene, hospitality, and related fields. In addition to restaurants, The Clink Charity also operates a bakery, event catering services, horticulture programs, Clink kitchens, and a cafe in Manchester.
The Clink Charity acknowledges that it cannot solve the complex issues of overcrowded cells, recidivism, government policies, and budget cuts. However, their tangible results demonstrate that rehabilitation efforts can yield positive outcomes with sincere initiative, support, and endorsement.
The Clink Restaurants Outshine Famous Competitors, Dominating Tripadvisor Rankings
In 2009, the first Clink restaurant opened at HM Prison High Down in Surrey. Its success led to the formation of the Clink Charity in 2010, which went on to open three more restaurants in different UK prisons. In 2012, the second Clink restaurant opened at HMP Cardiff, manned by low-risk inmates. It gained recognition as one of the top 10 best-rated restaurants in the UK in 2015. Unfortunately, due to lease renewal issues, the Cardiff restaurant closed down in 2022.
In 2014, the Clink charity expanded its reach by opening its third restaurant at HMP Brixton. This marked the beginning of their work in women’s prisons, as they introduced a unique program at HMP Send in Surrey. The Clink Gardens were established there, providing prisoners with horticulture training. The produce, including salad, fruit, vegetables, herbs, and eggs, is then supplied to Clink restaurants. The success of this initiative led to the opening of the fourth restaurant at HMP Styal in 2015.
In Good Company
In the bustling town of Wilmslow, three exceptional restaurants are making waves. Among them is The Clink Restaurant at HMP Styal, a true gem that consistently ranks among the top 10 dining establishments on Tripadvisor. In fact, in 2017, all of the Clink restaurants held the coveted first spot for an impressive six months. With glowing five-star reviews for their delectable cuisine, warm hospitality, and inviting ambiance, it’s no wonder they have become a favorite among locals and visitors alike. But their success doesn’t stop there. The Clink also caters to prestigious events in Central London, including renowned venues like the Guildhall and St Paul’s Cathedral. Surprisingly, they have even had the honor of catering two royal events.
The Clink Charity has been recognized for their outstanding achievements, including receiving over 60 awards. In 2023, they were honored with the “Best Educational Programme (SME)” at the 85th IOH Awards and named “Social Enterprise Bakery of the Year” at The National Bakery Awards. These accolades serve as a testament to their credibility and success.
Clink Charity Commended by the Ministry of Justice for Driving Positive Social Change.
The Clink Charity continues to make a meaningful impact on society. According to the Ministry of Justice in 2019, their restaurant training program for prisoners has successfully reduced reoffending rates. Graduates from the Brixton Prison restaurant had an impressive reoffending rate of only 11%, compared to inmates from other prisons. In contrast, those who were not involved in the restaurant project had reoffending rates of 37% within a year of release and a staggering 62% for sentences under a year. This demonstrates the effectiveness of The Clink Charity’s approach in breaking the cycle of crime.
Prisoners receive valuable job skills and training while incarcerated. The Clink Charity has provided 320,000 hours of training to 441 prisoners, resulting in 104 graduates who have successfully reintegrated into society. With the support of approximately 280 employers, the charity’s ‘Through the Gate’ program ensures that inmates receive assistance and guidance upon release, significantly reducing the likelihood of reoffending.