Inmates from Askham Grange, an open prison for women, are working as servers at a local McDonald’s. The prison is located in Yorkshire’s countryside and has been dubbed the UK’s ‘cushiest’ prison. Inmates are often transferred there for the last few years of their sentence, having spent most of their time in another centre. As it turns out, some then work at the McDonald's at the Bilbrough Top Service area beside the A64 York Leeds Road.
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People were shocked by a Daily Mail article, published 10 September with accompanying photos, that seemed to show one such prisoner walking unaccompanied back to Askham Grange after her shift. She appears to speak to guards through an interphone at the gate who then let her back in.
The prison working as a server
The prisoner has not been identified, but in the photos she is wearing a McDonald’s uniform and serving customers drinks at the local McDonald’s. She appears to be around 40, caucasian, and has tattoos on her arms.
According to the publication, the inmate bought an ice cream after her shift, put on a high vis jacket, and walked the 40 minutes back to Askham Grange unescorted.
Askham Grange: pioneering rehabilitation programme
Though many struggled to wrap their heads around this idea, it turns out that this scheme has been going on for years. A spokesperson for McDonald’s explained:
We have been working with Askham Grange women's open prison for nearly a decade, and both McDonald's and our local franchisee are proud to be part of a programme alongside a number of businesses across York.
Indeed, according to Inside Time, Askham Grange started thinking about rehabilitation much earlier than most. This is thanks to a governor of the prison, Susan McCormick, who launched a pioneering programme in the 70s,.
At 28 years old, McCormick was appointed governor - the youngest female governor or warden of a women’s prison in Britain. This was in 1973, so long before psychologists started pushing for rehabilitation centres in prisons, but she introduced these programmes - for inmates who were soon to be released - for for the first time.
Askham Grange gains ‘outstanding performance’ rating in 2023
According to the Ministry of Justice’s prison performance report, this centre scored 98% for the year. This classifies it as an ‘outstanding performance’ rating.
The McDonald's system is regulated. It’s not like any random inmate can chose to go and hand out Big Macs and fries whenever they feel like it. As the McDonald’s spokesperson said:
We work closely with the HMP Askham Grange team who identify applicants suitable for roles at the restaurant and help manage schedules. We believe in being a good neighbour and playing a responsible role in the communities we operate, and our franchisee is committed to continuing this relationship.
This allows prisoners to get used to life outside of prison again before they step back out into the world. The more prepared they are to deal with this, the more likely they are to successfully become a part of society again and avoid reoffending.
Daily Mail: Female prisoners work in McDonald's on day release: Inmates from Britain's 'cushiest jail' serving Big Mac and fries to paying customers at nearby eatery
The York Press: Askham Grange prison near York ranked as best in England and Wales