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In India, restaurant is staffed by convicted criminals

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Tihar Food Court is a vegetarian cafeteria in New Delhi where the food is made and served by criminals, including murderers, as part of a rehabilitation effort.

Prisons are notorious for being money sinkholes — they cost millions to run but inmates aren’t often given the opportunity to contribute anything to the economy. We recently saw Gaolhouse Denim provide a way for inmates to learn tailoring skills by producing jeans to be sold to the public. Now the is a vegetarian cafeteria in New Delhi where the food is made and served by criminals, including murderers, as part of a rehabilitation effort.

Opened in July, the venue forms the basis of an experimental scheme that aims to provide inmates with the experience of work as well as contact with the public. The staff is made up of a wide variety of criminals, many of whom have been serving long stints upwards of 10 years in jail. Only those who have kept a totally clean record during their time behind bars and have less than 2 years left of their sentence are eligible for working at the café, which serves up traditional Indian cuisine such as vegetable thali and flatbreads. Prisoners are allowed to travel to the workplace by walking or cycling without the need for a security escort. At the end of each day, they’re paid INR 74 for their work.

Customer response to the initiative has been positive. Asim, who has spent 14-1/2 years in jail for murder, told Reuters: “Those who come once to have our food come back again.” One customer comment in the visitor’s book even says: “The food was simply delicious. The service provided was also commendable … 10/10 for cleanliness and humble service.”

Tihar Jail has a history of rehabilitating prisoners through meaningful work, even setting up it’s own Tihar Jail Factory and TJ’s brand to market goods made by inmates. Is this something that could be replicated around the world to help convicts reintegrate into society?

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