Café built and run by Ford Prison inmates opens for business

A new café run by inmates at Ford Prison is now open – and has been described as a ‘first-class project’.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 11:32 am
Dave Rintoul and Kim Quaintrell outside HMP Fords new cafe Serving Thyme. Pic Steve Robards

After months of hard work by inmates at HMP Ford, the establishment knowingly named Serving Thyme was opened last Thursday (October 24), replacing its farm shop.

Governor Stephen Fradley said the project had ‘far surpassed his expectations’ and it was an example of their community spirit.

He said: “Ford Prison is a small village of 500 residents; we have a gate that is open. We want the community to be part of our world.

Stephen Bradley (Governor) and David Chace (Deputy Mayor of Littlehampton)HMP Fords new Farm Shop  Serving Thyme. Pic Steve Robards SR24101901 SUS-191024-172348001

“So many of our men are out in the world working and at college. We want this to reflect that.”

The café is on the site of the former staff mess, opposite the prison, which was demolished 18 months ago.

The project began soon after, but it did not take off until Kim Quaintrell, head of business assurance, stepped in. She commissioned prisoners at HMP Kirkham to make the building, and assembled a team of prisoners who were tradesmen. Led by site supervisor Dave Rintoul, they spent the last six months getting the café ready for business, from fitting the plumbing and electricity to putting on the roof.

Kim said it was ‘monumental’: “It is probably the first time we have managed to enable prisoners to do a project from start to finish, especially at this level.”

HMP Ford's new cafe Serving Thyme, which serves Costa coffee. Pic Steve Robards

Open to the public, it will be run by eight inmates who trained as baristas at the prison, overseen by supervisor Babs Glynn, and they will get a weekly wage.

There are still some finishing touches to be made, including wheelchair-friendly paving by the outdoor seating, a children’s play area and a serenity garden.

Kim said the project had given inmates a sense of purpose – and for one who left in September, it was even more important: “He said being on this build saved his life. Before he came here, he was a qualified electrician but he was struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.

“This gave him something to focus on.”

HMP Ford's new cafe Serving Thyme. Pic Steve Robards

Prisoners involved in the project invited their families to the grand opening – including Gary and his wife Louise.

The 58-year-old from Portsmouth laid the groundworks for the café among other jobs. He said: “It was good for me because I like keeping busy.”

Louise, 54, said she was proud of him, adding: “When they lock you up, you are not moving on or progressing, whereas this makes you feel like you are doing your prison sentence for something worthwhile, rather than sitting in a cell rotting.”

David Chace, deputy mayor of Littlehampton, told guests he was ‘in total awe’ of the ‘first-class project’.

HMP Ford's new cafe Serving Thyme. Pic Steve Robards
HMP Ford's new cafe Serving Thyme. Pic Steve Robards
HMP Ford's new cafe Serving Thyme. Pic Steve Robards