Coffee of the people, for the people: how coffee is changing the lives of prison inmates

11 August 2015

Peoples Coffee is upskilling female prison inmates to increase their job prospects. The initiative looks to improve employability while showing other businesses that community initiatives can benefit business and not cost the earth…

The Arohata Project is a stripped down version of a barista training course that will, “offer some practical and transferable skills to women in prison that will give them a sense of personal pride and achievement, as well as break up the monotony of prison life,” says General Manager Liv Doogue.

Originally taking place in 2013 the infancy of the course was a way to test the waters for financial viability and to see if the initiative would be mutually beneficial.

Liv says, “Our barista trainers are always looking for ways to improve how they teach and I think this experience has been wonderful in teaching our trainers to strip back to the essentials of coffee. Our trainers have to teach from the roots up, so this is a fantastic opportunity but it’s really just incredibly rewarding for us to see these women succeed.

“The trainees had an overwhelmingly positive response, which in turn was hugely energising for us as a company, and didn’t require huge amounts of resources on our part.”

The biggest challenge the World Fair Trade Organisation certified company faces is logistical.

“Having civilians working in close quarters with inmates is always going to be logistically difficult,” Liv says. “There is a lot of time and planning that goes into each visit and as a small business we have to be conscious of that.”

While attending and completing the course isn’t akin to a qualification Liv says that it sets the women on the road to gaining more meaningful employment once they leave the corrections facility.

“Some of the trainees said they were going to put on their CVs that they’d completed the course and others simply thought it was a good skills to have,” she says.

“The women were really excited to be learning a skill they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to learn.”

Liv encourages other businesses to follow in Peoples Coffee’s footsteps and says that the financial cost is offset by the positive impact the company is making.

“Collaboration is an amazing way to share resources while increasing capabilities and reach.”

She says that collaborating with other companies can mean lower investment costs and a way of spreading the work out, therefore having less impact on the day to day running of the business.

Liv predicts that if training, such as this, were to be implemented in other corrections facilities it would dramatically increase the prospects of people coming back into the community.

“What we want to see is an increase in inmates finding diverse, permanent employment after being released from prison.”