Redemption Roasters – Coffee Roasted Behind Bars
Over the last 5 years Social Pantry has worked closely with a number of companies that share the same values. You might have been lucky enough to have visited one of our coffee shops! If so the coffee would have been roasted behind bars with redemption roasters.
Redemption Roasters is the World’s First behind bars coffee Roastery. Their roastery based inside HMP The Mount is used to train offenders in coffee skills and the industry with the aim of reducing re-offending in the UK. We are so proud to sell and work with Redemption Roasters everything they do is aligned with our mission at Social Pantry. We had the pleasure of interviewing Arianna- Redemption’s Head of Education to find out a little bit more about her and her role.
- Arianna, tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to work at Redemption?
I started my coffee journey from a rather young age of 15, working at a café in my hometown of Berkeley, California. I supported myself through my undergraduate years while developing in the specialty coffee industry from a barista, to a trainer, to a roaster, and then decided to take a break and pursue a master’s degree in Legal & Political Theory at UCL. I happened upon Redemption on my walk to university and was astonished that a coffee company could overlap with my interest in criminal justice and reform. My friends back home still think I made this job up!
- What drew you to the industry?
Originally, I fell into making coffee just as a way to earn some extra money as a teenager. I always drank coffee, but it wasn’t until I got my first job in a specialty coffee shop that I began to fall in love with coffee; all the nuanced flavors and aromas that told a story of where it originated from and the seasons it endured. Coffee has taken me all over the world (from up and down the coast of California, to New York, Japan, South Korea, and now, London) and I find comfort in the idea that nearly anywhere in the world there people are drinking coffee in some form or another.
- What’s a cause that is important to you?
I’m quite passionate about criminal justice, particularly in regards to prison abolition and how transformative justice can be used to resolve conflict and promote healing. I don’t believe that prisons prevent violence, but rather functions to mask and then magnify a lot of harms that exist in communities.
- Tell us a little about Redemptions mission to reducing re-offending.
We approach reducing re-offending in a twofold way. First, in the form of education, we teach learners about what specialty coffee is and then train them how to make it. Second, we provide “through the gates” support to help interested graduates find a job within the coffee industry. This support comes in many forms, from helping to secure an interview, write up a CV, interview prep, to providing a watch to make sure they show up on time. Redemption is currently the largest employer of our own graduates, and as we continue to grow we’re able to supply critical jobs to folks looking for a second chance.
- What did you take away from 2020?
I’ve had a lot of time (too much time…) to reflect on the past year and I think my biggest take away is in learning how to be more present. I spent so much worrying energy on planning and trying to predict how things will unfold, and this year has taught me that I have absolutely no clue what is going to happen so it’s better for me to let go and practice things that bring me joy in my day to day.
- Describe what a ‘normal’ day looks like for you at Redemption
A ‘normal’ day for me at Redemption starts with a coffee from our Lamb’s Conduit St. café. Our HQ office is just around the corner, and if you don’t see someone you’re expecting in the office there is a high probability you will find them at Lamb’s getting a coffee. Since most of the folks in the education department are trainers that work independently inside prison, I check in with everyone on my team individually at least once a week to get a sense of how things are for them in work and in general. Prisons are a challenging environment to navigate, and these check-ins are incredibly important to me as insight into the wellbeing of our learners as well as the trainers. The rest of my time is usually spent overseeing our current academies (we’re operating in 8 different prisons at the moment) or working to launch new academies.
- What are the biggest challenges you face within your job role?
Because so much of our social impact is measured in securing employment, a big challenge we face is in isolating employment from the myriad of other struggles many new prison-leavers face, such as stable housing or mental health concerns. While getting a job is proven to be one of the most important factors to breaking the cycle of re-offending, thinking of a person in a one-dimensional way is unproductive for long-term abstinence from crime. This requires a holistic understanding of each graduate we work with and supporting their individual needs, often using our network of amazing referrals for support in areas we are, humbly, not experts in.
- What is your favourite coffee? What is the best coffee shop (apart from Redemption) you have ever been to?
Though my standard drink is a black filter coffee, when I’ve got the time I like to order a “one & one”, which is one shot of espresso and one macchiato. I couldn’t be certain what the one best coffee shop I’ve ever been to, but I hold very fond memories of Andytown Coffee Roasters in San Francisco.
- What has been a career highlight so far?
Every learner I get to meet inside prison and then see working in one of our shops brings me so much joy. The Redemption coffee community is made up of such a warm and welcoming group of people who work really hard to keep our mission alive and well!
- What is the biggest lesson you have learnt along the way?
Being from California, I’m used to speaking quite directly about pretty much anything. From my experiences, I’ve had to learn that sometimes my frankness is off-putting to the more gentle, British manner of asking people to do things.