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My life behind bars – from prisoner to bar owner

David Gauke has made it clear that he doesn’t believe that prison sentences of less than 12 months rehabilitate individuals and should only be used as a last resort. Malcolm is certain that despite having served lots of short sentences, he only started to turn his life around after he’d received one for 6 years.


When you’ve been in and out of prison as many times as I have (I only received short sentences), you’re always going to find it hard to find a job. When you’re 17 stone, over 6ft tall and have an arm full of tattoos – well you’re just living up to some people’s image of a criminal.

My last sentence was the longest I’d done, 6 years for a drug offence. I’ve never taken drugs myself; I’d always thought it was a bit of a mugs game to be honest but,when I found myself with no job, struggling to find somewhere affordable to live, the offer of some easy money was too good to resist. Of course, there’s no such thing as easy money and I’ve had to live with the consequences of that decision ever since.

The only good thing to come out of my last sentence was the fact that I got the chance to go to an open prison. From there, I had the opportunity to do some voluntary work and then managed to get a paid job working for a food preparation company. Although I love food, my only experience had been in the eating and not the making so this was a totally new experience for me. However, I loved the job and was always willing to work overtime or cover for colleagues if they needed time off.

As the time to leave prison drew closer, I started to give some thought to what the future might hold for me. I knew that my job was safe but I started to look at possible training courses. I didn’t think that I wanted to train to be a chef but considered that a career in management might be more my type of thing.

I signed up to do a qualification in Kitchen Management, well supported by my employers. I passed with flying colours but the best thing to come out of the course was meeting a guy called Charlie F. Charlie was working for a large pub chain as a manager and we ended up having lunch together most days. Before the course had finished, he’d convinced me to apply for a job as a trainee pub manager.

I never thought for one minute that I’d get an interview so I put off applying for another 9 months. However, to my surprise I smashed the interview and was offered a trainee management role. I did loads more training and within 4 months I had my own pub in Yorkshire. The hours were long but I loved meeting and talking to the customers; I even learnt to become a lot more tolerant of the more challenging customers, although to be honest nobody really wanted to mess with a 17 stone guy like me.

One of the benefits of managing a pub is that you get very little time to go out or spend money. You live in a pub, paying minimal rent and so for many people you can build up some substantial savings which is exactly what I did.

So now, I can begin the next part of my journey which is the opening of my own cocktail bar. This is no ordinary bar however, we’re going to be using local spirits, tonics and sodas and our drinks will be inspired by some of the herbs and flowers grown in our own garden. For a ‘bit of a lad’ like me, I bet your struggling to get your head around that. For me, it’s an ideal opportunity to experiment with flavours whilst combining this with my love of booze (only joking). I’m working with a much more discerning clientele these days who probably view me as a ‘loveable rogue’ rather than just a ‘thug’.

I’ve worked hard for what I have but I was given a lot of opportunities by people who were prepared to give me a second chance; I can’t thank them enough. I’ve always tried to do the same in my business and I’ve employed lots of people with criminal records. I’ve never been let down by any of them. My life is very different now – albeit, I’m still behind bars!

By Malcolm (name changed to protect identity)


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