A coffee shop run by inmates at Ford Prison has opened to the public – and it is already changing lives.
David is a barista at Serving Thyme in Ford Road, which opened on October 24. Read more here.
The 30-year-old spent most of his twenties in and out of prison for a string of crimes – but thanks to the support he has had at HMP Ford, he is determined to break the cycle for good.
He said: “I have changed more in the year I have been here than the rest of the time I have been in prison.
“I tell the staff here about my issues and they support me every step of the way; in some prisons they really don’t care.”
After being bullied in school, David’s life in prison began aged 21, when he got a two-month sentence for burglary – stealing to fund a former cocaine habit, he said.
He added: “I was drinking, smoking weed; just the party lifestyle.”
The next was more serious: 15 months in prison and another 15 on licence for crimes including burglary, theft, criminal damage and common assault.
He said: “I was a horrible person when I lived in Slough. If I met someone now like I was back then, I would probably call the police on them as well.”
After that stint in prison, David tried to change his life, getting clean of drugs, moving out of his hometown, Slough, and getting engaged.
But he said things went ‘really wrong’, losing his job, his house and his fiancée, sending him ‘back down the path of drinking again’.
While drunk at a family gathering, David said he set fire to a shed – leading to him being sent to prison again in 2016 for arson with intent, this time for six years and eight months with two years and four months extended licence. He claimed he did not remember what happened – but ‘all the evidence pointed towards me in the end’.
“It made me sick,” he said.
Since moving to the open prison, David has joined AA meetings at the Litlehampton United Church and got catering qualifications.
His dream is to open his own restaurant in Littlehampton once he is free ‘to leave something behind to his niece and nephew’, and to volunteer for a youth offending team to steer them away from the life he led.
He said: “If I walked into a shop now, I wouldn’t even take a penny sweet.
“I have been in prison now for nearly four years, and if I can get out and change one kid’s life, then that is a start.”