Renovations began in September 2014 to transform the century old, disused chapel within the prison grounds into the fourth Clink prisoner training restaurant and the first to operate in a prison for women.
Retaining many of the church's original features, such as the organ pipes, vaulted wood ceiling and stained glass windows, the restaurant offers seating for 120 diners as well as private meetings and event spaces for up to 24 people.
The women prisoners working in the kitchen and front of house began training six weeks ago as part of The Clink Charity's Five Step Programme - recruit, train, support, employ and mentor. Trainees work a 40 hour week and train towards gaining nationally recognised NVQs in food service and food preparation, before returning to the prison each evening.
Chris Moore, chief executive of The Clink Charity, commented on the opening: "Six months ago we stood in a decommissioned church, which was being used as storage, about to embark on this incredible project – our fourth Clink training restaurant. With the incredible help of our supporters and suppliers we have brought this 100 year old building back to life and today we officially open our doors for the first time, which is an amazing achievement in such a short space of time.
"We recruited our first cohort of prisoners just six weeks ago and the level of cooking and service they are providing already is exceptional. They all have between six and 18 months left to serve in prison so will be highly skilled and qualified to a professional standard when they are released back in to society. With the support of mentors from The Clink Charity, the women will enter employment in the hospitality industry as part of their resettlement and will be provided with the mentoring and support necessary for their rehabilitation.
"Not only do the prisoners acquire academic qualifications during their time with us but they also learn to work as part of a team in a pressurised environment, gaining confidence, motivation and pride."
The Clink Charity, in partnership with Her Majesty's Prison Service (HMPS), is focused on being able to release 500 graduates a year by the end of 2017, into an industry that has a major skills shortage. This aim requires the charity to have a total of 10 prisoner training schemes in operation and relies on the support of philanthropic individuals and businesses across the UK to do this.
The Clink Charity welcomed over 36,000 customers through the doors of its restaurants at HMP High Down, HMP Cardiff and HMP Brixton last year and hopes to significantly grow this figure for 2015 with the latest opening at HMP Styal.