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  • Case study

An eco-project renews the lives of inmates


Quality of Life Observer

- Prisons

- Jun 11 2014


Coffee Grounds for Growth started as an employee engagement initiative to improve Sodexo’s environmental performance in the UK and Ireland. The partnership with Sodexo Justice Services that unfolded as a result of the successful project created an even larger impact on the community of HMP Peterborough, England.

In 2011, Sodexo challenged its employees to come up with ideas to make the company greener by reducing its environmental impact. One of the top three ideas, Coffee Grounds for Growth, proposed to recover used grounds from Sodexo coffee bars, repurpose the waste as and then donate the final product to its customers. The grounds, packaged in the original coffee bean bags, come with directions on how to use the contents as a natural fertilizer and pest deterrent for plants and vegetables.

The project set out to recycle an estimated 200 tons of coffee grounds each year, preventing the creation of 100 tons of CO2 emissions that would be produced if the grounds were sent to landfill. The end result goes far beyond greener gardens and a greener planet.

Fostering growth within a prison

Following the successful launch of the project, Sodexo Justice Services proposed a partnership between Coffee Grounds for Growth and the carpentry workshop at HMP Peterborough Prison. The participating male inmates - who are paid to produce high-quality wooden boxes to display the packaged coffee grounds - receive a National Certification in Further Education in carpentry by Peterborough Regional College at the end of the six-week training course. They are also then able to enroll onto a 12-week program to receive a diploma in carpentry.

Today the initiative goes even further: inmates at Peterborough Prison produce the entire Coffee Grounds for Growth toolkit – including printing materials, packaging and shipping orders.

“Beyond technical skills, inmates learn employability skills by delivering on time and to the required quality, but most importantly see that their work has a real purpose. Being strict about quality, feedback from customers and outlining where and how products are used helps develop pride and self-belief,” says Steve Jones, Reducing Re-Offending Advisor Sodexo Justice Services. “We invest in making sure that ex-offenders who leave the prison are better equipped to be contributors to society,” he continues.

Preparing for the outside

So far, the program has seen over 50 inmates earn their certificate as well as foster useful skills they can use once they return to the community outside the prison. According to a 2013 study by Rand Corporation – a non-profit research organization dedicated to policy changes that benefit communities throughout the world – inmates who receive vocational training or general education classes while in prison are 28 percent more likely than those who did not to find employment after their release. This higher likelihood of employment contributes to the fact that this same group of inmates is also significantly less likely to return to prison after release.

 

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