This is the first post in a series about what we do as a charity, starting with our work in Prisons for #prisonweek
There are three projects being run by The Oswin Project which provide training for prisoners and recent prison leavers, helping them to develop practical skills, gain qualifications and experience the world of work.
We employ prisoners to work in our Café & Bakery called Café 16 inside HMP Northumberland. There we train prisoners in baking & catering. It’s not just cookery skills, prisoners learn timekeeping, employment and working as a team. We support these prisoners with the release process, helping to write their CVs and disclosure statements. Some go on to work in our Café in Newcastle Cathedral, the rest move to open prisons or elsewhere on release.
We have recently taken over the running of the prison’s Market Gardens. There 20 prisoners are learning horticulture skills, and completing qualifications like the RHS level 2 in plant propagation and management. The gardens are a very therapeutic place and they supply fruit and vegetables to our other enterprises. We are hoping that prisoners will be able to move on to employment with our ‘Inside & Out Team’
Finally, we run a Farm Shop in the grounds of the prison, staffed by prison leavers, volunteers and a serving prisoner on day release from the prison, although our previous prisoner was released recently, and we are eagerly awaiting a replacement. The farm shop sells produce grown in the prison, sandwiches cakes and bread made in the prison and garden furniture made in the woodworking shop.
Some people question the point of our Catering & Horticultural training, if many prisoners don’t go on to work in those industries. The answer is that it doesn’t matter if the only thing former prisoners do is make the occasional scone or tend a modest plant collection at home. What matters is that while they were incarcerated they found something to engage with; something purposeful to pass the time but also to give them a sense of achievement from learning and working – soft skills that are invaluable for become productive members of society.