I was recently trying to find a decent restaurant to take my girlfriend to on Valentine’s Day. On previous experience of finding a new restaurant, taking a quick look at Trip Advisor seemed to be a winning formula.

Not wanting to change tact I stuck with the usual plan. I normally expect to see the same place in the top ten but there was new restaurant in the number one spot. It was called Clink and until that moment, I’d never heard of the place. I gave them a quick call but to cut a long story short, I couldn’t get a table.

Later on in the week, at my girlfriend’s flat, there was a leaflet for Clink. Her flat mate must have had the same Trip Advisor plan, just with a little bit more luck than me. I had a quick read and was really surprised by what I saw. Instead of putting it in my own words, I’ll share a little bit from their website.

2009
The first Clink Restaurant opens at HMP High Down in Surrey, when Alberto Crisci MBE, then catering manager, identifies the need for formal training, qualifications and support for prisoners in finding a job after release.

2012
The first Clink Restaurant proves successful in the drive to reduce reoffending and the second restaurant opens at HMP Cardiff in Cardiff – the first restaurant to be located outside prison walls. It works alongside HMP Prescoed to offer over 30 Category D prisoners from HMP Prescoed and HMP Cardiff full-time work within the kitchen, restaurant and gardens.

So not your standard restaurant then. It got me thinking about the topic and after reading about the amazing work that Clink do, I don’t think we really do enough to help prisoners reintegrate into society. If you look at any big corporation, some of the biggest employers in the world, they all talk about equality and the fairness of their recruitment system. Can we really trust these promises though, especially when you look at people that have just come out prison? Behind these promises, recruitment is played the way big companies want it to be played. There are certainly laws that dictate that everyone should have a fair crack but those laws are also there to be bent.

Surely, having to let your employer know that you’ve served time in prison is going to put a black mark over your head. Breaking the law is breaking the law but once you’ve served your time that should be it. I’m not going to generalise for all crimes either. There are some that should absolutely be made known if you’re applying for a job, especially the ones that mean you might be a danger to society.

What I’m saying is everyone should be given the chance to make a go of their lives once they’ve served their time. Otherwise, you may as well leave them in prison. At least they’d have a fighting chance of surviving that way.

Just look at the work that Clink has done. I don’t have the leaflet to hand but for people that start working for them, the rate of re-offending is extremely low. This shows that with the right support, we can really turn people’s lives around. It’s when they aren’t offered a chance to rebuild that they see no other option but to re-offend.

I think the other side of this is the level of support prisoners receive whilst they’re inside. What kind of skills do we give them? Is there a compulsory system of education/trade upskill that might prepare them for the time they leave? If I’m honest, I don’t know enough about it, but I’d probably guess no.

Again, I’m completely surmising here but it just feels as though prisoners are the forgotten part of society, both when they’re inside and when they’re released.

I suppose it all boils down to trust. Would you trust someone to watch your store when they’ve just come out of prison for burglary? The answer for most people is probably no but why did that person steal in the first place? Do they deserve a second chance? Doesn’t everyone?