breakfast in the clink

21 10 2012

In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. In 2012, a crack commando of ministers were sent to prison in order to have breakfast.

Ok, so the A Team line is better. But this week I went to prison, and this time it was for breakfast. There are a lot of vicar-points at stake for doing prison ministry, but I am not sure I get any for this visit. Our monthly Sutton Church Leaders group met for a full English at The Clink, a top-class restaurant in the heart of High Down Prison. I know, not what I expected to find either (there’s now one in HMP Cardiff too).

Prisons – and prisoners – have a bad name in our country. But as we entered prison there was a plaque on the wall with a quote from Churchill. I couldn’t take a picture of it because they’d taken our phones. But it went something along the lines of how you can tell a lot about a society from the way it treats its prisoners. And that we see the light of hope in he hearts of everyone, a hope that we can all change for the better.

The statistics for prisoners re-offending after release are quite shocking. The national average is about 75%. The average from High Down is about 65%. But get this: the average re-offending rate for a prisoner who has worked at The Clink – 10%. People can change. There is hope. 

The Clink is an innovative training project, in which ordinary prisoners with 12-18 months left to serve are given the opportunity to learn cooking and other skills that lead to employment in the hospitality industry. They describe themselves like this:

The aim of The Clink Charity is to reduce re-offending rates of ex-offenders by training and placing graduates upon their release into the hospitality industry.  The charity represents a genuine opportunity for change, offering prisoners the chance to gain food preparation, food service and cleaning qualifications as well as experience within an exciting, operational business and in-depth guidance to find full-time employment within the hospitality industry upon release.

During their apprenticeship they work an 8 hour day, have lunch around a table together, and learn how to live outside of prison routines. This is an essential part of their rehabilitation, and makes a big difference from the normal work pattern in prison, of 2 hours work, 2 hours in the cell for lunch and 2 hours work again. They also grow their own vegetables and make their own honey. This is life-skills in a big way. And the menu is top-quality. And anyone can go. What’s not to like?

It is our responsibility as followers of Jesus to be on the side of prisoners. There’s no escape from that. It’s not always easy though, but then lots of things aren’t. Having a good meal at  a good price is something a lot of us can do though. This is on my doorstep and I didn’t know. Now I do. Maybe you could support it too, and show that you believe there is hope that people can change too.* 

[* If you want to take someone with you I’ll take one for the team and go again…] 




5 responses

21 10 2012

It sounds as if in some places there are actually enlightened prison governors prepared to risk take in terms of rehabilitation of prisoners. I also suspect that to get on that particular programme, the prisoners must have earned themselves a few brownie points.

But, if this was replicated across the whole system, what outstanding results we might have? Not just running a cafe, but other types of business to light engineering and manufacturing. Prisons normally have workshop facilities so why not?

22 10 2012

Sounds like restorative love in action. Great idea.

Presumably the prisoners suitable for this scheme are selected as being suitable, so the statistics don’t stand up, but never mind, the more that is done to restore and help people and ensure they get onto a better life the better. Could we try the same with people who are on long term benefits? No not send them to prison Kevin!

22 10 2012

They say they don’t cherry-pick “the best” prisoners for The Clink, but it must be the case that there is a “self-selection” even in those motivated enough to put themselves forward or agree to do it. But then, a project that takes those with motivation and encourages that, rather than allowing that motivation to stagnate into institutionalisation and the continuous downward spiral is still a good thing.

17 04 2013

My sisters killer is in High Down, he stabbed her multiple times, including a strike right through her head and out the other side. Life looks far too easy in High Down, they eat better than the majority of the general public can afford to. We are far too easy on prisoners in the UK, they get everything from education to healthcare completely free when they should be made to work bloody hard for these privileges, after all it does cost most of us to see the likes of a dentist, even if we are employed or not, you really have to be lucky to find one taking NHS patients these days. We treat prisoners as if they are some kind of victims. The Tories have the population brainwashed into thinking the disabled and unemployed are getting loads of money for nothing when prisoners cost on average £40,000 a year to keep. Sickening, just sickening.

17 04 2013

Hi Anon, thanks so much for reading and for posting. I can’t imagine what it must be like for you to have lost your sister in that way. Prison is a contentious subject, and I don’t seek to defend what prisoners have done; what I recognise though is that for some, there is rehabilitation that can be done, certainly for more minor offences, that prevents reoffending upon release; this saves money, as well as benefiting society in the long run.

Thanks again, and feel free to reply again.

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: