Innocent members of the public were given a taste of prison life yesterday.
They were marched into the "Charity Canteen" at the Correctional Services Department's celebration fair at Stanley.
An area was designed to look like a prison dining room, where they lined up like inmates, grabbed trays from a slot in the wall and were assigned seats at tables against a backdrop of iron bars and fluorescent lights.
The meals were cooked by the inmates themselves and were taken from menus actually served in prison.
For HK$100, visitors could pick one of the four meals - braised pork with rice, curry with chapatis, chicken wings with potato and bread or mushroom and bean curd with rice.
Principal officer for the day, Cheung Kin-chung, said: "Each inmate will be assigned to a meal plan when they come in, according to their health, religion and also cultural eating habits."
The fair, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the department, was held at Stanley Prison, one of six maximum-security jails in Hong Kong. Stanley Prison was built in 1937 and is the oldest prison still operating in the city.
Yesterday's fair also featured stalls selling products handmade by inmates, games and 10 items to be auctioned off.
It sold 150 prison meals and all proceeds, like those from the rest of the fair, will go to charity.
Student in law and criminology Marilyn Tryde, who attended the fair with friends, said the Hong Kong public did not give enough support and acceptance to released inmates.
"I'd also like to know what concrete measures were introduced [by the government] to help them reintegrate into society," she said.
Prison officer Hui Sai-kit said the biggest lessons for inmates to learn would be perseverance and focus.
Hui, who helps train inmates and equip them with skills they can use when they are granted their freedom, said: "There are no short cuts to success.
"They need to tough it out when they get back outside and we want to encourage them to do it."
He added: "I hope society can see that many of them do want to start over, and I hope we can give them a chance."