The Power of The Coffee Industry to Reduce Recidivism

StoriesFebruary 28, 2023

The coffee industry employs millions of people around the world, making it one of the most important economic sectors. In recent years, coffee businesses such as roasters and cafes have taken a more active role in society, adopting social responsibility practices such as working with ex-offenders. The rehabilitation of ex-offenders through working in the coffee industry can provide them with a second chance at life and help them reintegrate into society. It also offers businesses a pool of new, talented employees.

Max Dubiel and Ted Rosner founded UK-based Redemption Roasters in 2017 as a wholesale business, but were soon approached by the Ministry of Justice with an inspiring opportunity. They proposed a plan to provide barista training to prisons, launching their business into a new realm of social justice. At Redemption, the team's mission is to equip prisoners with the skills they need to be successful in life after their sentences have ended. They provide barista and roastery training during the offenders' time in prison, and upon release, they help them find suitable employment in either the Redemption coffee shops or through a wholesale client. It's a second chance for those beginning a new chapter in life.

“We saw the opportunity and, for the first time, saw the need for doing something against re-offending in this country, which is a big problem,” says Max, who is originally from Germany. “We thought, rather than doing training in prisons, why don’t we actually roast in prison and tell the story of reducing reoffending? About a year later, our first roastery opened in Aylesbury Prison and Young Offender Institution.”

In Oxford, a few miles outside of London, there is another duo who have a similar mission. Joel Grates and Dickon Morris founded Newground Coffee with the ambition to not only source superior coffee beans from small farms, but also to help those who had previously served time in prison to reintegrate into society. Newground Coffee offers training and employment to these individuals, giving them the chance for a fresh start.

Joel grew up in a rough part of Liverpool, but his family eventually moved to the south of England. 

As he got older, he noticed that many of his friends went to prison and had difficulty escaping the cycle of going back. Dickon and Joel realized that time in jail often resulted in an ex-offender's lack of work experience and training, making them more likely to reoffend. Sadly, most employers would not consider hiring someone with a criminal record. They were determined to change this injustice and give formerly incarcerated people the opportunity to live meaningful lives.

The duo created an incredible 12-week program for ex-offenders, with the aim to help them reintegrate and become financially stable. They are providing classes on housing, budgeting, and other financial topics. Most importantly, they have a goal of connecting these ex-offenders with companies that can provide them with work, “These guys have made some mistakes and have done some bad things in the past, but they served their sentence, did their time, and they’ve been punished and rehabilitated during that time, so why not give them a second chance?” Dickon says.

There are other initiatives such as these both in Europe and the U.S. such as Heilige Boontjes in the Netherlands and The Fringe Coffee House in Ohio that are helping to reduce recidivism and increase economic mobility for those coming out of prison. The coffee industry is taking a stand by providing employment opportunities, educational resources, and other services tailored to the needs of ex-offenders. By giving people a second chance, we can help break the cycle of crime by offering new hope for the future. It's inspiring to see coffee businesses putting their principles into action, leading the way in social justice.

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