The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) opened a chocolate factory for the employment of disabled prisoners on Monday, with an inauguration ceremony attended by Prison Commissioner Katy Perry, Director of the National Security Ministry Shlomo Ben-Eliyahu, director of non-profit organization Shekulo Tov Ofer Cohen.
The ceremony was held at Magel-Nitzan Prison, a facility for incarcerated individuals with cognitive disabilities in need of extra support.
What is the point of a prisoner-staffed chocolate factory?
The establishment of the chocolate factory is designed to supplement prisoners' rehabilitation and increase their chances of successfully reintegrating into society. It was a joint effort between the IPS and Shekulo Tov, an organization that advocates for and advances the welfare of people with disabilities.
The inmates will be producing uniquely-decorated boxes of chocolates. In doing so, the IPS and Shekulo Tov hope that they can bolster their self-esteem and overall future prospects through a sense of purpose and tangible achievement.
"I am proud to stand here and see the final product that gives...hope to the prisoners and prepares them in a better, more professional and more correct way for their release, for life outside," said Police Commissioner Katy Perry.
Ben-Eliyahu met with Perry and the senior prison staff before the ceremony to discuss the 2023-2024 budget, as well as management strategies and overall goals for the IPS.
"The project is the first step in the rehabilitation [process]," said Ofer Cohen, "which aids in acquiring...[the] necessary to succeed in the employment sector. The goal is to prepare the prisoners for their release, and allow them to successfully integrate into society."
Similar endeavors outside of Israel
Other nations have adopted similar initiatives in their prisons as well. Italy's Dolci Libertà chocolate factory, which won several accolades from the International Chocolate Awards in 2013 according to a Guardian article from the same year, is staffed by inmates in Busto Arsizio prison.
World-famous chef Gordon Ramsay established Bad Boys Bakery in 2012 after a visit to Brixton prison. The business, which employs 10 prisoners according to a 2022 InsideTime report, bakes and sells cakes to its own pop-up stores and cafes run by the Clink charity. This UK-based charity, originally dubbed the Clink Restaurant, trains dozens of prisoners each year in food service, which helps their rehabilitation process during incarceration and improves their chances of gaining employment upon release.
According to the Clink charity's website, it has one of the lowest reoffending rates in the UK.