‘Prison-themed’ cafe is planned for Dublin

Irish Prison Service seeks to open eatery that will employ ex-offenders near Mountjoy

The proposed site for the prison-themed cafe is located near Mountjoy Prison. Photograph: iStockphoto

The proposed site for the prison-themed cafe is located near Mountjoy Prison. Photograph: iStockphoto

 

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) is seeking to open a “prison-themed” cafe in Dublin city centre which will employ ex-offenders.

As part of the Department of Justice’s Social Enterprise Policy, the cafe will be set up in a vacant building and will employ “suitably qualified people with criminal convictions who have found it difficult to gain employment as a result of their previous criminal activity”.

The cafe will be run by an independent operator but the premises will be provided free of charge by the IPS, according to a tender which was put out on Friday.

The IPS said it will also provide “suitable memorabilia to retain a prison theme in the facility”.

It is currently conducting a “market sounding exercise” to establish the level of interest from prospective cafe operators.

A prisoner-run cafe currently operates on the grounds of Loughlin House, an open prison in Cavan, while prisoners in Cloverhill run a mobile coffee shop there.

However, the latest initiative will be the first such business to operate outside a prison in Ireland. The proposed site, which is already owned by the IPS, is located near Mountjoy Prison.

Initiative

The project is part of the “New Way Forward” strategy, an initiative to create jobs for ex-offenders.

The Department of Justice, the Prison Service and the Probation Service have also established a seed fund to provide matching grants of up to €30,000 to organisations willing to employ ex-offenders and people leaving prison. Further funding is also available for market research and feasibility studies.

A total of €300,000, taken from the Dormant Accounts Disbursement Scheme, is available for funding.

“The key criteria is that projects be viable, sustainable and deliver a social benefit,” said Probation Service director Vivian Guerin.

Social enterprise initiatives are becoming increasingly common in other countries as a means of reintegrating ex-prisoners into society and preventing re-offending.

A UK study has shown 95 per cent of ex-prisoners employed in a social enterprise after release did not re-offend.

Re-offend

According to a 2013 IPS study, 62 per cent of Irish ex-prisoners re-offend within three years, with 80 per cent of those re-offending within the first 12 months.

“The core aim of the Prison Service is to rehabilitate people and to turn them away from the factors that would have led them to offending in the first place,” an IPS spokesman said yesterday. “One of the primary reasons someone would not want to re-offend is employment.

“We’re trying to work with people and to give them a chance to show they can turn their back on their previous behaviour and work for themselves to give themselves a better life. So they can embrace what they have learned in prison and have a better life outside.”

The deadline for expressions of interest in the cafe project is September 7th.