herald

Tuesday 25 June 2019

It's Fair Trade - prison-themed cafe planned to employ ex-cons

The cafe will be within the Mountjoy complex
The cafe will be within the Mountjoy complex

Dublin is set to get a prison-themed cafe - staffed by ex-convicts.

The enterprise will be located in the vacant former waiting room of St Patrick's Institution in the Mountjoy complex.

It is planned that the cafe will be staffed by ex-prisoners, people on probation sanctions and those who have had difficulty securing work due to their criminal record.

Current prisoners will also be offered work placement training opportunities by the operator under terms set out by the Irish Prison Service (IPS).

The cafe will display prison memorabilia which will be made available from the Mountjoy Prison Museum to "maintain links to the prison" and "retain a prison theme in the facility".

The IPS is asking social enterprises to take part in a "sounding" activity in a bid to determine interest in running the cafe. In a tender document published this week, the IPS said the facility will be provided to a successful applicant free of charge.

But they will be expected to cover the refurbishment and fit-out costs of transforming the waiting area into a cafe.

At least 30pc of the staff at the cafe must be people with criminal convictions, but it is preferred that this figure would be higher.

Employees would be paid at least minimum wage, but the living wage is the preferred rate of pay.

Assessed

Its operators will be expected to provide a continuous professional development plan which will build on the previous training undertaken in prison education centres and catering facilities.

The governor of Mountjoy will be the key point of contact for troubleshooting.

A spokesman for the IPS said each person will be risk assessed to determine if they are suitable for employment in the cafe.

A person who has "successfully dealt with violent behaviour should be looked at as they are now and not where they have been in the past" he said.

The sounding exercise is to "get a clear understanding of the level of interest in the proposed cafe".

The initiative is being developed in line with the Department of Justice's Social Enterprise Strategy A New Way Forward, which looks at ways in which to drive social enterprise employment of people with criminal convictions.

Earlier this year, the department launched another initiative under the strategy which made €300,000 available under the Kickstart programme, to give grants of up to €30,000 to organisations providing employment to former offenders and people leaving prison.

The department noted at that time that "while social enterprise is a new and alternative approach to reducing recidivism in Ireland, statistics from the UK indicate that 95pc of ex-offenders who work in a social enterprise do not re-offend".

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