Redemption Roasters, Aylesbury Prison Visit

Social Pantry’s proud coffee supplier

Aylesbury is one of the oldest prisons in the U.K. dating back to 1847. Once a POW camp serving the Second World War, it became a young offender’s institute (YOI) in 1989, incarcerating young men from the ages of 16 to 22 on long term and severe sentences.
In 2016, Redemption Roasters was born at Aylesbury; a one of its kind program that was created to help change the lives of young offenders and re shape their future after release. Redemption’s mission is to teach invaluable skills to offenders and reduce reoffending rates through the means of coffee. They do exactly that, and much more.

Aylesbury Prison Gate

The roastery and café is not too dissimilar to your classic artisanal high street shop – state of the art machines, freshly baked cupcakes and the distinctive smell of the deep and chocolatey rich roasted beans. This café, however, is a little different, it’s run by baristas from behind bars.
At Social Pantry, we stock Redemption Roastery coffee across all of our London sites, so we paid them a visit to meet the team and learn more about how they work.
Redemptions sourcing of their beans was the first thing we asked about; we could see big brown sacks piled high from around the world – Ecuador, Ethiopia, El Salvador you name it. As a sustainably aware company we always try our best to use ethically sourced suppliers, and Redemptions direct trading system means they are working closely with the farmers to ensure there is the best product possible with the correct trading process.
Getting to talk to offenders isn’t something you come across every day, it gives you a more positive perspective on who are behind bars in our prison system. We got the chance to speak to the group who were working at the Roastery that day, their experience and how they felt about being there. The young lads were having a very humoured debate on who could create the best latte art, to which a ‘coffee off’ was announced; cups were drawn, and steamers were at the ready. Silky florets of foamy milk were beautifully crafted just like any coffee shop, it was a real chance for these boys to show off the skills they had been taught and showcase some beautiful latte art. There was a brief moment where it seemed as if there were no bars on the wall, no locks and they were free to do what they wanted. It was clear that Redemption is a safe haven for the young offenders where they can escape their monotonous life behind their cells and out of any trouble they might come across.
The relaxed atmosphere that the staff have created obtains a high level of respect from the inmates, there was little prejudice towards anyone, and everyone seemed to get on with their jobs like any work routine. The inmates that I spoke to directly said they valued skills that were practical, often its more engaging to teach someone a process that shows an instant outcome. The program seems so successful as it’s teaching and giving these boys experience that they know they can use to create a brighter future.

Redemption Training

The popularity of the roastery program has led to an increase of barista academies within prisons all over the country. I asked the question of what happens to the guys once they are transferred from Aylesbury to a different prison, to which I was told it is one of the most difficult parts of keeping track of the boy’s progress throughout their sentences. The Redemption staff want to do their upmost to help the lads succeed after release, however, the prison system has its rules and there is no say whether they may get transferred to a prison that has the facilities to carry on their barista work. The academies that are being setup in other prisons are their best bet at continuing what they have learnt.
Reoffending rates are extremely high in men in the U.K., being even higher for young offenders. However, studies show that the opportunity to get a job when released has a huge impact on reoffending rates, giving hope to people who might not have any and inspiring them to want to make a new pathway in their life after release.
Thank you to Redemption Roasters for having Social Pantry at Aylesbury, we are proud to use your coffee in all our sites and will continue our sustainable path together and help lower reoffending rates in the U.K. Who knows, hopefully one day one of your talented Barista’s will join us for a job on the outside.


Want a taste of Redemption Roastery coffee? Head to any of our London sites

Crane’s Kitchen
Social Pantry Café
Soane’s Kitchen
Pitzhanger Pantry