Matt Fountain of Glasgow had a vision: He wanted to help people who were in a bad way with the law, get their lives sorted and provide them with training that would give them a new lease on life.
It started after Fountain left academia and decided to pursue something he could sink his teeth into, something he could make a difference doing.
The idea took shape in 2014 when Fountain started a bakery. His employees? Prisoners and ex-convicts.
Today, the bakery has become known not only for its unique staff and mission but also for its delicious artisan bread. It now supplies dozens of local businesses a week.
“The only ideal was to make sure it was really good so it would leave a lasting impression on the person eating it, so they would understand where it came from and maybe think more positively about who made that bread,” Fountain said, according to Good News Network.
“It is important our bread tastes great and for us to be really successful. Our people need to be cared for and paid fairly, and if those things combine it means the bread we make is really doing good.”
It’s called Freedom Bakery.
“Freedom Bakery is a social enterprise based in Glasgow, training people with convictions in artisan baking with the intention of finding them an industry-related career following their release,” its Facebook page states.
Helping inmates is an especially important cause for Fountain, as he watched his stepfather go through the prison system and struggle to reintegrate.
“When someone comes out of prison, they can quite quickly get entrenched and stuck in a reality that’s made for them; their lives are structured by social services,” Fountain wrote on his website. “It doesn’t give them liberty.
“Having a record is a tough thing, but though it’s easy to feel sorry for people, that itself is another problem. Feeling sorry for someone doesn’t lead them anywhere — it’s not going to help.”
The bakery employees have “a mixture of long term and short term sentences including drugs-related offences, fraud, and I’m afraid to say manslaughter and murder,” Fountain said.
Employees who are not prisoners are given courses in self-defense.
When successful, the inmates leave Freedom Bakery with the same thing: knowledge and skills in a craft that will enable them to survive on the outside.
“Nobody would take me on,” Joseph Lennox, who spent more than half his life in prison, told The Guardian in 2018.
“The job center put me on the sick indefinitely, but I was healthy, I wanted to work. They turned round and said, ‘Because of your past, nobody’s going to employ you.'”
But once he was released from prison, he was able to start full-time at Freedom Bakery.
“We’re like a pack of strays,” Fountain said. “I feel like I’m part of a family.”
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