Paninis not porridge for public at Kirklevington Grange as new cafe and car valeting service opens (From The Northern Echo)
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Paninis not porridge for public at Kirklevington Grange as new cafe and car valeting service opens
AN eaterie with a difference has opened in a town renowned for its stylish restaurants and cafes. Serving freshly baked scones and homemade soup, The Grange coffee shop is the latest venture launched by HMP Kirklevington Grange in Yarm. Lucy Richardson visits the prisoner-run cafe.
Criminals turned qualified baristas wearing smart black logoed T-shirts and matching caps serve frothy cappuccinos, bacon sandwiches and paninis from 7.30am to 6pm each day to hungry members of the public who can perch on bar stools while watching rolling news on a flat screen television.
Only the high perimeter fence outside belies the fact that this is no ordinary cafe, instead one designed to help prisoners at the end of lengthy sentences integrate back into real life.
The shop, which also sells homegrown vegetables as well as intricate ironwork planters and benches made on site, which sit alongside a new car valeting service, which is open daily in the visitor car park.
There are 283 prisoners living next door in the ‘resettlement’ prison, one of only three in the country for men nearing the end of sentences lasting more than three years.
None of the men are convicted sex offenders nor have any been charged with arson as their main offence.
All prisoners are risk assessed before they can be signed up to a minimum 30-day unpaid community work placement and only then can they become eligible for home leave or paid employment, says Graeme Parry, the prison’s head of reducing reoffending.
“We believe that we are pretty much successful at what we do. We have got a good working relationships within the establishment and we aim to teach them to be good citizens again,” he explains.
Community work includes helping local authorities maintain their parks, volunteering in charity shops, or making and erecting fences.
“We are working with the Forestry Commission managing a woodland and cutting down trees - it is about risk and trust and we are building it up,” he adds.
The value of the ‘community payback’ if the hours were paid at minimum wage combined with paid work added up to £750,000 in the last financial year with this year’s target set at £1m.
Kirklevington Grange’s last inspection, ranked ‘good’ by Ofsted inspectors in May 2011, highlighted the valuable focus on training and education.
“Its particularly effective focus on driving forward initiatives that support resettlement are reflected in the high proportion of prisoners gaining paid employment on release," the report states.
Yet it does not manage to reform everyone who passes through the semi-open jail. Prison governor, Steve Robson was thanked by Judge Simon Bourne-Arton last month for helping to convict prisoner Ian Maynard, 36, who was sentenced to ten years’ concurrent after admitting two charges of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs in the North-East.
And convicted murderer Craig Hendley was on day-release with the Salvation Army in Redcar when the 42-year-old went missing in April and later found in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, before being returned to custody less than 24 hours later.
The latest reoffending rates based on statistics produced by the Ministry for Justice for the 12 months to September 2011 reveal that the proportion of proven reoffences after leaving Kirklevington Grange was 10.8 per cent, made up of 13 reoffenders who were guilty of 17 crimes.
However, the data does not show how long after leaving the prison that the crimes were committed.
“We have 83 prisoners now in paid employment, compared to only 23 this time last year and we are expecting it to go up to 90 next week,” Mr Parry says. “We have made contact with a recruitment agency - it wants to bus people to companies across the region from Morpeth to Leeds to take up hard to fill vacancies.”
The Prisoners Earnings Act ensures that after tax, National Insurance, and a £20 surcharge per week, externally employed prisoners pay a 40 per cent levy on the remainder of their earnings which goes direct to Victim Support.
“There are 40 prisoners studying at colleges across Tees Valley and another 70 to 80 doing unpaid community work. We are working with 40 different projects but we are reaching the point we are going to have to say ‘no’ as we are running out of prisoners, we need them to do work inside the prison as well,” he adds.
Conservative MP for Stockton South, James Wharton, says: “Given that one of the main purposes of this prison is to prepare people to go back into normal society, I think it’s welcome that they are looking at a range of options to ensure that prisoners are given the best possible chance when they leave."
And Juliet Lyon CBE, director of independent UK charity, Prison Reform Trust, believes those who want to see crime rates drop even further will welcome resettlement work at Kirklevington Grange.
"Learning new skills, gaining qualifications and confidence, taking responsibility for your life and helping others are part and parcel of the work of a good resettlement prison," she says.
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