Unlocking potential with…Redemption Roasters

In this series of articles, we’ll be meeting the six current recipients of our Unlocking Potential fund to see what impact our grants have had. This is a fund MTC provides that is shared out across organisations that work with individuals and communities to transform lives on a frontline basis.

In this article we’re looking at Redemption Roasters, a UK prison-based roastery that also owns seven cafes and provides coffee beans wholesale to a wide variety of establishments.

Running a coffee roastery in prison

Established five years ago in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, Redemption Roasters are the UK’s first prison-based roastery. Working with prisoners in HMP the Mount to roast and produce specialty coffee, they also run training programmes in prisons across the UK including in HMP Send, their first women’s prison.

Redemption Roasters run seven cafes across London with plans to open a further two as they expand into South London, and supply around 150 further cafes with wholesale coffee beans.

“We want to see our business as a working model for employing those with a prison past,” explains Employment Support Manager Lauren Tennent, “and are looking to work alongside organisations and people who share these values.”

Using MTC’s support to create new training

Redemption Roasters work with those with a prison past, on Probation and Community Payback. Since covid they have begun extending their programme to those at risk of entering the criminal justice system but have not already done so. To increase their impact, MTC’s Unlocking Potential fund gave Redemption Roasters a grant which was used to create a new community training pilot.

This one-week practical community training course provides the attendees with specialty barista skills before they work with an Employment Support Coach to make strides towards employment. They are also given access to a hardship fund to ensure they have housing, mental health support, food, travel and more.

Helping people towards job opportunities

“The funding from MTC went solely towards community training and employment opportunities,” Lauren says, “we have had 12 people through [the training] and out of that we have had six receive job offers and four are now in permanent employment with Redemption Roasters.

“We see a lot of potential in this,” Lauren adds, “we’re pleased with how it’s going so far. We are now including a ‘pay per learner’ set-up as it increases sustainability and is transparent and accountable – letting the donor follow the learner’s progress.”

There are weekly meetings between the Employment Support Coach and Redemption’s retail team to find job pathways for graduates from this training, with opportunities within Redemption Roasters and their partners being explored. For those who may not wish to work within London, Redemption Roasters support them with CV writing and use connections to help them find work.

Moving forwards

Looking forward, Redemption Roasters are planning to focus on developing the community training programme. Working with both the government KickStart scheme and their own internship scheme, they are continuing to focus on introducing their new prevention aspect as they work to halt individuals at risk of falling into/back into the criminal justice system.

“We are looking towards expanding our employment partnership network and engaging professional volunteers,” Lauren adds, saying that they continue to work with partners and employers who share the same value of getting those with a prison past into meaningful employment, helping them to transform lives.

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