Lags kicked out of Fred Sirieix's prison cookery courseSeptember 24, 2023
First Dates star Fred Sirieix’s prison cookery course is ‘hijacked by inmates as drug smuggling front’ – as criminals working in the staff canteen for charity project are kicked off
- The incident at HMP Wormwood Scrubs in London saw 15 inmates kicked off
Inmates working at First Date star Fred Siriex’s prison training restaurant have been kicked off the course after a drug smuggling operation was uncovered.
Prisoners had been working in the staff canteen as part of a charity project set up by the TV star where offenders are put in charge of cooking and serving at jails, leading to a diploma at the end of the course.
On the whole the initiative, which operating at two prisons, has proved hugely successful, with up to 90 per cent of those on the course finding working once released.
But the plan backfired when a prison officers at HMP Wormwood Scrubs in west London suspected some cons were taking drug deliveries after narcotics were thrown over the wall of the prison’s restaurant.
After launching an investigation into the course, 15 inmates who were part way through training were banned, with the prison reviewing its security and installing nets to catch any more drugs that might hurled over the wall.
Inmates working at First Date star Fred Siriex’s prison training restaurant have been kicked off the course after a drug smuggling operation was uncovered
The plan backfired when a prison officers at HMP Wormwood Scrubs in west London suspected some cons were taking drug deliveries after narcotics were thrown over the wall
A source told the Mirror: ‘Fred was gutted. This is a brilliant scheme and it is a shame some of the prisoners had to be removed. Fred won’t be deterred and is expanding the plan to more jails.’
Despite there being no concrete proof linking any of the trainees to the drug collection – and no drugs being found in the restaurant – none of the inmates were allowed back.
Instead a new group of inmates were selected to start working in the restaurant which will award them a City & Guilds Level 2 Diploma in catering and front-of-house qualifications and a high chance of employment after release.
A spokesman for The Right Course, the charity started by Sirieix to administer the scheme, said: ‘The cohort were removed from the practical side of working in the restaurant in case they were involved in any way.
‘But they were still supported to complete their qualification from the classroom. A new cohort started in the restaurant once the nets were in place.
‘It happened in February. Things were thrown over the external wall – as all prisons have to deal with unfortunately – landing near the staff restaurant.
‘This required additional nets to be added and security took the correct stance on removing all learners from the course in case they were involved. Security is the main priority.’
A prisons service spokesperson said: ‘Thanks to the efforts of hardworking staff and our £100m security crackdown we are finding and stopping more contraband behind bars.’
So far, a total of 180 prisoners have completed Siriex’s prison course, with courses also running at HMP Lincoln (pictured) and HMP Isis, in Thamesmead, south east London
The Ministry of Justice said it has invested £100 million since 2019 on measures such as enhanced gate security, kitted out with x-ray body scanners, which has driven out the finding of drugs, weapons and other contraband.
As of October last year, X-ray scanners had picked up 28,626 illicit contraband items.
A spokesman said it could not say which type of drug had been found by the restaurant ‘for security reasons’.
So far, a total of 180 prisoners have completed Siriex’s prison course, with courses also running at HMP Lincoln and HMP Isis, in Thamesmead, south east London.
A fourth jail is due to begin the scheme this month, plus three more by December.
Nine out of ten of those who have stayed in contact with Right Course following their release have found employment in hospitality or other industries, with the charity continuing to help them find jobs after their sentences.
As the charity loses contact with a number of former participants, the known employment rate is at least two out of every three who participated.
Its results stand way ahead of other job-targeted rehabilitation projects, which have on average only seen five to 10 per cent of inmates leaving to find jobs, although it has the advantage of a national shortage of workers in hospitality.
The aim is to stop the scourge of re-offending through work, and only two of the 180 past students are known to have reoffended, although figures are incomplete because of data protection restrictions on information.
Sirieix made a documentary called Served, filming inmates in the scheme from May, which went on to the Ministry of Justice’s YouTube channel this month
Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Road Trip presenter Sirieix hailed the restaurant scheme’s success as ‘incredible’, but he said his goal is for 100 per cent of trainees to find work in the outside world.
He said: ‘There are 90 prisons in the UK. We need to open more and do it at scale and at pace, so we would not just be a charity.
‘It’s difficult. You work in a highly stressful environment. Health and safety is paramount.
‘But even though I’m not happy we’re still the best of what’s available because most prisoners in most prisons are in their cells for 23 hours a day. I mean what hope do you have of redemption, of getting somebody a job, of inspiring somebody if this is the kind of treatment that you give people.
‘We have to believe in redemption, in forgiveness, we have to believe in giving people second chances. For some people it will be the third, it will be the fourth or the fifth chance.
‘If you’ve ended up in prison it’s because something somewhere down the line has failed. It could be your parents, it could be your community, it could be your parents.
‘We just can’t bury our heads in the ground because never mind the crime people commit, it takes a lot of money to send people to prison, look after them.’
Sirieix made a documentary called Served, filming inmates in the scheme from May, which went on to the Ministry of Justice’s YouTube channel this month.
Revealing his inspiration, Sirieix said: ‘I started a charity before that and as a result of that charity I met a lot of people within the MoJ (Ministry of Justice), probation office, police and all that, so visiting prison, and I visited Isis which is in Thamesmead and I met the governor.
‘I went to the staff canteen and I thought we could transform that into a training restaurant for the prisoners, run by the prisoners, they would be cooking and they would be serving, and it would be for the staff of the prison. We opened the first restaurant and then we saw it was successful.’
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