Ambassadors Blog: Edwina Grosvenor
PMNW is fun, exciting, educational and inspirational and, having been around the prison service for many years now, I feel very honoured to be part of this exceptional organisation.
I have also been involved with the Clink restaurant now since its conception almost four years ago. I invested in it at the very beginning and have been a trustee for the last three years.
It was a hair brained idea which ambitiously planned to open a fine dining restaurant inside prison walls, run by prisoners who would cook and wait on to the paying public off the street. Nothing like this had ever been done before – what could possibly go wrong?!
Luckily things have gone well. Not only did we open our first one in HMP Highdown four years ago, we opened our second one at HMP Cardiff a year and a half ago. On the 26th of February this year we opened our third Clink restaurant in HMP Brixton! An achievement myself and the team are incredibly proud of.
The purpose of the Clink restaurants is to train and skill the prisoners up to a level where they are fit and able to get a good job in the catering and hospitality industry. To us it is vitally important that these men never come back. To date we have trained 506 men, 106 have been released and only 6 have reoffended. The Governments reoffending rate a year after release is 49.6%, ours is just 9%.
Not only does the concept slash reoffending rates, it’s reducing the number of victims created which is vital. What I find fascinating when I am lunching at a Clink is watching the customers come in. Many of them have never been in a prison before and appear slightly apprehensive. Many will have preconceived ideas. The inmates also can appear nervous when coming face to face with Jo Public as these are the very people who are meant to be kept apart for their own safety. Very quickly one notices the breaking down of barriers, customers softening as the men do their best to serve them well and be polite. You hear people whispering things like “they don’t look like monsters! My soup is delicious!” You then see the customers thanking their waiters and the two parties smile at each other. The same people that society makes us believe should never meet in case of catastrophic consequences!
The Clinks are places where one can witness social change taking place infront of their very eyes. It never fails to move me. Our plan is to have ten Clink restaurants up and running by 2017. Watch this space – oh and make sure you get booking your table!