In a revolutionary new rehab program, Italian prisoners are running a gourmet restaurant - and slaying.
If you hear ‘InGalera’ and think of just another high-end, fancy Italian restaurant, you are on the right track. The location, however, may surprise you. InGalera, Italian slang for “in prison”, is exactly that: a restaurant inside Milan’s Bollate penitentiary.
This medium-security prison houses about 1,100 inmates – and is garnering stellar reviews on social media and travel sites like TripAdvisor, with an average score of 4.5 stars out of 5. The kicker? This restaurant is run and staffed almost entirely by the inmates, with the exception of an advisory maître d’ and chef. With crimes ranging from homicide to armed bank robbery to drug deals, the kitchen crew, waiters, and busboys all serve their time in prison earning a monthly salary of up to 1,000 Euros.
The Italian prison system is experimenting with this innovative rehabilitation program and may be the first of its kind in the world. It offers training in real-world job skills, like cooking and serving functions that come with operating a restaurant, as well as skills applicable outside of the kitchen, like marketing and promotion. These skills can easily translate outside the penitentiary walls and help prisoners reintegrate with society upon release.
Bollate Prison has always been at the forefront of experimenting with rehabilitation programs. Under director Massimo Parisi, the prison offers a host of programs, many of which are sponsored by outside companies on prison grounds. Volunteers instruct in theater and painting, workshops for carpentry complete with power drills and saws are available, and inmates can even maintain a stable of horses in the yard. InGalera is simply the latest edition in an already extensive repertoire.
A local architect donated services to help design and construct the 50-seat restaurant, complete with a modern kitchen, wine cellar, and ever-changing menu. The walls are also comically decorated with posters toting famous Hollywood prison themes, adding to the whole effect.
While this unique establishment has only recently opened its doors, it has already proven its worth in success beyond what anyone really expected. It is booked out weeks in advance for its Monday through Saturday lunch and dinner hours. Few people would consider a prison to be a place for a grand night out, but it is the novelty and positive approach to rehabilitation that seems to be drawing crowds.
Italy’s unique perspective to prison work and rehabilitation programs – and the success of these programs – is easily enough to provoke thought of prison reform elsewhere in the world. The Bollate Prison should serve as an example of what prisoners can achieve and what the government ought to do to promote such glowing success stories.
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