Social enterprises come in all shapes and sizes but one of the more unusual ones must be ‘The Freedom Bakery’ in Low Moss Prison.
Set up last year by social entrepreneur Matt Fountain, the business employs prisoners to bake bread, which is then sold in cafe’s in the west end and southside of Glasgow.
The high security Bishopbriggs prison is the first in the country to take part in this innovative scheme which gives offenders the opportunity to gain employment skills and a nationally recognised SVQ qualification in craft baking.
Matt (29) said he was interested in developing a social enterprise company helping prisoners, because a member of his family had been in prison and found it very hard to find work when he come out.
The Cambridge graduate said: “When prisoners are released the likelihood of re-offending is high, and I wanted to do something to address this. I had set up The Freedom Bakery and was looking to employ ex-offenders, but when the catering manager at Low Moss Prison, John Herd, got in contact with me the business took a different turn. He asked if I could come along and have a look at their kitchen setup.”
Matt is now employing eight prisoners who were all interviewed from the many hundreds who applied.
He added: “We want to make a business that can sustain itself, with a high quality product people want to buy. We also want to help prisoners turn their lives around. We give them some identity. In prison they are either a blue or a green shirt, but they now have hope and pride in what they do.
“We actively encourage them to come up with recipes of their own and be part of the creative process. These are then trialled to see how they are received by our customers. Some of the responses have been very favourable.”
David Abernethy, governor at HM Prison Low Moss, said: “Being able to live independently and provide for yourself and your loved ones is one of the most important dimensions of desisting from crime and staying out of prison. Getting a job is a crucial part of that, so the fact that people like Matt from Freedom Bakery are willing to train and employ people from Low Moss is a great thing for them, and us. It plays a part in Scotland being a safer place.”