Sadiq Khan joined TV personality and maître d’ Fred Sirieix to mark the opening of the new prisoner-run The Escape restaurant at HMP Wormwood Scrubs.
A £108,000 investment from City Hall saw the prison staff canteen transformed into a high-street style restaurant which will provide training for prisoners as they work towards industry-recognised qualifications.
The funding is part of an initiative from Khan which aims to reduce crime and “break the cycle of reoffending” by increasing employment opportunities for those who have served a prison sentence.
Khan said: “I’m delighted to be here today for the opening of the ‘Escape’ restaurant – this is a brilliant initiative that gives prisoners practical work experience and highly regarded qualifications, which will help them to get back on track after leaving prison.
“It is vital we do everything we can to prevent reoffending and give those who have been through the criminal justice system the support they need to turn their lives around.
“By supporting offenders to rebuild their lives through access to training and employment, we can break the cycle of reoffending, reduce crime, and ensure that all Londoners have access to the opportunities our city offers.”
The Escape restaurant is the second of its kind to be opened by The Right Course. The Right Course is a charity founded by First Dates star and restaurant veteran Fred Sirieix which supports prisoners in finding work in the hospitality sector following their release.
Sirieix said the charity’s aim is to help reduce reoffending while addressing staff shortages within the industry.
Earlier this week, new Justice Secretary Dominic Raab floated the idea of hiring ex-prisoners and low-level offenders to tackle the shortage of HGV drivers and to fill gaps elsewhere in the UK’s labour market.
Raab said giving paid work to ex-offenders in industries that are facing shortages would provide a “benefit for the economy [and] a benefit for society”.