Frequently Asked Questions
What is Redemption Roasters?
We are a specialty coffee company who believe that we can reduce reoffending in the UK through coffee.
What do you do?
At our roastery at HMYOI Aylesbury, we train young offenders in barista, coffee production, and roasting skills — as well as roasting incredible coffee for our 4 London coffee shops and our network of over 100 wholesale clients. We also run barista academies at 3 other prisons, namely HMP Wormwood Scrubs, Spring Hill and Bullingdon.
Why are you doing this?
The UK’s re-offending rates are amongst the highest in the western world, and it’s costly on both a national and personal level. 46% of prisoners in England and Wales go on to commit another crime within one year of being released. Reoffending costs the Treasury an estimated £4.5 billion every year (£131,000 for every re-offender). Only 36% of prisoners manage to find work within two years of being released. If prisoners do find employment, they are 50% less likely to return to prison.
There is always a job for a good barista or roaster. That’s why we are doing this.
We want to show the coffee community and the world that a positive commercial environment can be created behind bars and that exceptional specialty coffee can come from places and people you wouldn’t expect.
Who actually roasts the coffee?
Our Roasting Team, led by our Head Roaster Marcus, personally oversee every batch and curate our range of coffees. They are backed up by our Head of Production and woman extraordinaire, Row. The apprentices are immersed in all elements of the roasting process and their involvement grows with their experience.
How can I buy your coffee?
If you are a home buyer, looking for small quantities, go to our online shop. If you are a potential wholesale client (deliveries of 6kg or more), please email email@example.com to discuss how we can work together.
Do you offer private label roasting?
Yes we do. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your requirements. We will be back in touch promptly.
Isn’t it just ‘cheap labour’?
No. Running a full time barista roasting training academy is much more expensive than running a normal roastery, especially for a small company like us. Setting up such an operation in a prison is also much more time-consuming than would be the case in a normal commercial site.
Our business is successful because our customers and clients buy into our ethos, not because we have no costs.
Isn’t this just a marketing technique? Are you actually making a difference?
Absolutely not, and yes.
Work initiatives in prison, generally speaking, are not as good as they need to be. Common examples of work done by prisoners in the UK are: sorting recycling or waste, mail-related manual tasks and call handling.
There are some, isolated examples of positive work initiatives, especially in the building trade but much more needs to be done.
Mundane work neither teaches hard skills, nor does it foster enthusiasm for work. Redemption Roasters is highly effective at doing both these things. We are teaching real skills to our apprentices that they can immediately make use of upon their release, equipping them for an industry always on the lookout for able employees.
Assignment to the roastery is highly over-subscribed and the offenders themselves say things like this:
- “I wake up and I'm so excited to get to work. I've never had a job before; I've never felt that before. And I get here and I forget I'm in prison the whole time. The feeling in here is what on road [out of prison] must feel like when you're not from bad ends.”
- “Nothing I've ever done in prison taught me anything fam. Nothing. But this in the space of two weeks has taught me more than any of these fu**ing ********** [another work initiative, name deleted] or bricks [bricklaying]. This is serious y’know. We appreciate it, believe.”
Are the prisoners who work with you paid? How much are they paid?
Prisoners are all paid for work undertaken during their sentence. Rates of pay for prisoners are controlled by the Justice System and also each individual prison.
Prisoners’ rates of pay depend on several factors including their behavioral record. We as a company do not have any influence on the amount any individual apprentice is paid, neither are we allowed to pay them directly.
We do pay certain fees to Aylesbury prison in respect of expenses they incur in hosting our roastery, an element of which covers pay for our apprentices. When we give work experience to prisoners released on temporary license, we pay them and cover their expenses, something we are not obliged to do.
Do people at the prison drink your coffee?
Yes. Tasting and appreciation (through drinking!) is a central part of our apprentices’ training. We also run a small coffee shop for the prison community.
Where do you source your coffee and tea?
As you would expect, we source coffee from multiple origins and farms across the world to find the best lots available. We are able to source through direct trade, importers or collaborative importer partnerships. Whichever method we use, we have direct knowledge of the farms our coffees come from. All of them adhere to the strictest ethical principles.
Are you a charity?
No, we are a commercial private company. That said, our business is run on ‘profit for purpose’ principles; we do not consider commercial motivation to be contradictory to our social commitment.
What are your long-term goals?
Over the next few years, we hope to:
- increase the amount of coffee we roast so we can keep the project at Aylesbury going strong;
- take as many offenders through our program as possible;
- find jobs for our apprentices upon their release and see them continue their lives without slipping back into crime;
- see one of our apprentices compete in a barista tournament; and eventually...
- open a chain of specialty coffee shops staffed by a high percentage of ex-offenders.
What can I do to get involved?
Several things: you can buy our coffee for your home and office and, if you have a business, you can use us as your coffee supplier. If you know people who might be interested, recommend us. Follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook to show your support. Alternatively, just tell people about us!