In furtherance of my self-imposed role of Criminal Justice System tv critic, I feel I'd better say something about the 'Gordon Behind Bars' series that's just started on Channel 4. I have to say first off that I find Gordon Ramsey an enormously irritating person, irrespective of his abilities as a chef. I think I'd go as far as saying I share a bit of the obvious glee apparent on some of the prison officers faces as they contemplate how his abrasive manner will go down with the hard men at HMP Brixton.
Nevertheless the idea is an interesting one, trying to motivate and train up a bunch of novice and seemingly unlikely candidates and turn them into a mean, keen, money-making food-producing machine. The trouble I always find with enterprises like this though is the hidden hand of the producers. Seemingly they feel there won't be enough excitement without winding the inmates up a bit first off. What was all that ridiculous - and dangerous - stuff on the wing at the beginning with the prisoners still locked in their cells? And do we really need that very tired old cliche of lining up 12 guys in the exercise yard 'Dirty Dozen' style? Embarrassing and pathetic.
A number of things struck me about the programme, not least that suspiciously shiny-looking kitchen. It's been supplied and paid for by Channel 4 and Electrolux (did you see the prominent labels?) and its legacy will form part of Brixton's extensive refurbishment programme and re-categorisation from a Cat B local to a Cat C. Interestingly, since the shock closure of HMP Latchmere House, it's intended to use part of Brixton as the first city centre prison for resettlement and where Cat D prisoners can work outside the prison. According to this article in Inside Time, the governor wanted to try and replicate the Clink Restaurant at HMP Highdown, but that idea might have to wait a bit.
So, the future for this bleak London Victorian jail looks bright. As an overcrowded 'local' it never had, or arguably needed, any workshops, but big changes are on the way that should provide the constructive opportunities for training and employment we all know is needed for long term prisoners. In the meantime, lets see what circles those bad boys run round Gordon in the coming episodes. I think he's going to get some nasty surprises unless he treats them with a bit more respect. And I can't help feeling that would be a good lesson well learnt by Mr Ramsey. But then I suppose that might have been the producers plan all along.....