The Oswin Project is a charity that helps ex-offenders in the north east of England move out of a life of crime. It gives prisoners the chance to learn new skills, as well as offering general support and helping them find employment.
According to the charity, between 48-58% of prisoners are reconvicted within one year, with 60% of those having no qualifications, a statistic the charity aims to improve.
Now, in partnership with bakery training agency Gaining Food Training, it will offer inmates at HMP Northumberland the chance to gain Level 2 bakery qualifications at a purpose-built bakery in the prison. The charity says it will work up to having 10 inmates in training and, depending upon ability, some will be offered Level 3 training.
The bakery, which goes under the working name Bakin’ Free, is hoping to open in the autumn and the inmates will be taught by second-generation baker Ian Thompson. The bakery space has been furnished with the help of companies such Brook Food Processing Equipment, which has provided a large quantity of equipment on preferential financial terms, and RedBlack software, which has donated hardware and software to run the bakery programme.
The bakers-in-training will sell their products to Sodexo, which runs HMP Northumberland, with the aim of supplying the prison with its entire bread requirement. The prisoners will be able to earn a small wage for their work, some of which will be saved in a general account to pay for needs on release, such as transport costs and victim support.
The Oswin Project said it hoped to extend the programme to other prisons run by Sodexo in the future.
Fiona Sample, founder of the Oswin Project, said: “When people ask why I founded the Oswin Project, I always ask ‘have you visited a prison?’ It is shocking that Britain imprisons more people than anywhere else in Western Europe (currently over 85,000 people are in prison) and purposeful activity is at the lowest level inspectors have ever recorded. Yet 68% say a job would stop them re- offending.
“The Oswin Project has now sourced work for 27 Oswinners and, as far as we are aware, only one has re-offended. The ripple effect on families and communities is incalculable. We have already saved the tax payer over £1 million. In setting up Bakin’ Free, we will be able to get Oswinners qualification- and work-ready, as most of those reading this will know the touch, smell, feel and sense of achievement of baking bread is good for everyone. The case for setting up a bakery in HMP Northumberland is irrefutable.”
Recently, ex-offender Francesca Barker opened her second artisan bakery in Manchester.