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Employing ex offenders Gail's story

Justice

Our commitment to employing ex-offenders to help reduce re-offending

Gail shares her story of how work experience gained at HMP Bronzefield led to a promising career with Sodexo.

I was given a three-and-ahalf-year sentence for my crime, of which I served 17 months. I’ll be honest, prison wasn’t somewhere I was expecting to be in my 40s. But it happened, I had to accept it, and from the moment I was sentenced I knew I had to take every opportunity offered to me.

I signed up to educational courses straight away and I was also keen to get into work. The Sodexo run prison has a staff restaurant, textile workshop, hair salon and more where residents are given the chance to work and learn new skills.

Having previously run my own sandwich shop, and with an interest in food, the staff restaurant appealed to me and within six weeks of arriving I was working there.

I liked it as it was no different to a normal working routine. I started at 6.30am on the breakfast shift and finished after lunch at 2.30pm.

Two qualified chefs run the restaurant, with around a dozen residents supporting them. Training covers a range of topics, from barista skills, allergen awareness to knife skills. We sometimes catered for special functions too, producing buffet food for high profile guests. The training also included classroom training and I successfully completed a COSHH cleaning course and an approved Food Hygiene Certificate.

The prison team encourages you to think of employment opportunities after your release and help you to gain the skills to do it. 

This is such a fantastic opportunity for me and I absolutely love it here. The team at Bronzefield has even invited me back to talk about my journey to residents currently working in the restaurant. It will be good to be an inspiration to others

 

Take the opportunities

I was given the opportunity to work at Sodexo’s London headquarters under the Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) scheme. Four days a week I travelled from Bronzefield to work in the staff restaurant as a barista. It was a great opportunity and I was 100% committed to making sure I had a job at the end of it.

I didn’t want to have to lie so everyone knew about my conviction, and being open and honest from the moment I arrived really helped me bond with the team.

In October 2018, I was offered a full-time job as a deli chef, running my own section preparing baguettes, sandwiches and salads, including made to order.

The general manager and the four Sodexo chefs support me all the way. Building mutual trust with the general manager was particularly important whilst under ROTL, as she needed to know I was going to arrive on time and also that I needed to get back to Bronzefield within the strict terms of my licence each day.

This is such a fantastic opportunity for me and I absolutely love it here. The team at Bronzefield has even invited me back to talk about my journey to residents currently working in the restaurant. It will be good to be an inspiration to others; to say ‘this is what you can do if you take the opportunities’.

July 02, 2019

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