Kerala jail café satiates foodies, rehabilitates inmates | india news | Hindustan Times
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Kerala jail café satiates foodies, rehabilitates inmates

The inmates-run ‘Food for Freedom’ cafeteria in Thiruvananthapuram’s Central Prison has turned out to be a hit among patrons thanks to the delicacies offered and their low cost.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2018 07:18 IST
Ramesh Babu
A view of the Food For Freedom Cafeteria at Central Prison premises in Thiruvananthapuram.
A view of the Food For Freedom Cafeteria at Central Prison premises in Thiruvananthapuram.(Vivek Nair/HT Photo)

A place which most people dread to enter has become a favourite hangout for foodies in Kerala’s capital.

The inmates-run ‘Food for Freedom’ cafeteria in Thiruvananthapuram’s Central Prison has turned out to be a hit among patrons thanks to the delicacies offered and their low cost.

“It is not the low price of dishes alone that attracted us to the jail cafeteria. It is very hygienic and made without any preservatives and taste enhancers. We feel as if we are having food made in our own kitchen,’ said techies K Abishek and Swapna, both regulars at the cafeteria.

The café has also laid the groundwork for the eventual rehabilitation of prisoners, who said they experience social acceptance when they see people relish their food. “We feel happy when people savour our food. We feel like a part of the society and it gives us an opportunity to interact with the outside world,” said an inmate.

Started two years ago as a small three dish-offering kitchen, the café now serves 20-odd dishes and provides work to more than 120 inmates.

Prisoners with a history of good behaviour get an opportunity to work at the cafeteria, which according to jail authorities, works as an ideal correctional and rehabilitation programme.

The growing popularity of the jail cafeteria has started giving established eateries in the locality a run for their money. Requesting anonymity, the owners of restaurants near the jail admitted that ‘Food for Freedom’ has cut into their revenue share. “Many food outlets near the jail have closed down after the café came up,” said a former employee of a nearby hotel.

Although the café makes Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000 as revenue each day, jail authorities said the initiative is not profit driven. “We are not doing it as a profit-oriented business. For us it is a service and we engage our inmates effectively,” said prison superintendent S Santhosh. The money collected by the outlet is added to the government kitty after which a sizeable portion of the revenue is pumped back into the prison to improve the living conditions for the inmates. Buoyed by the success of the eating joint, the jail also set up a salon for men recently.