What is Freedom Bakery?


We are a social enterprise trading as a wholesale artisan bakery that provides work experience, training and employment to people with convictions.


What do you do?


At our bakery we work with prisoners on day-release and recently released former-prisoners to learn on the job under the direction of our professional bakers. We produce a small range of slow-fermented breads and pastries for the wholesale market across the Central Belt of Scotland.


Why are you doing this?


The UK’s re-offending rates are amongst the highest in the Western World, and it’s costly on both a national and personal level. 42% of prisoners in Scotland go on to commit another crime within two years of being released. Reoffending costs the Treasury an estimated £4.5 billion every year (£131,000 for every re-offender). Only 36% of prisoners manage to find work within two years of being released. If prisoners do find employment, they are 50% less likely to return to prison.


Someone with a criminal record can be ‘legally’ prejudiced in the job market. That’s why we’re doing this. We want to show the world that great things can be achieved by a different approach.


Who actually bakes the bread?


For every bread baked by our team three people are involved in the process; mixing, shaping and baking. The team work under the supervision of our head baker Scott who is assisted by the bakers. Some of our bakers come from professional backgrounds. Others are former prisoners we have trained and now employ as part of the team. Apprentices are involved in the mixing and shaping processes. Due to the prison regime, prisoners can’t get out to the bakery early enough to work on the ovens.


How can I buy your bread?


We wholesale to cafes, restaurants and delis across Glasgow and a little further afield. Please check our Where to Buy page to find retailers.


Isn’t it just ‘cheap labour’?


No, far from it. It is hugely expensive to run a bakery offering vocational training compared to a normal commercial bakery, especially for a small bakery like us. We go a step further and have invested beyond training our employees whether it be paying for therapy and support worker to assist someone’s difficulties in rehabilitation to very practical matters like helping place a deposit down for a home to rent.


Last financial year we recorded a loss of just under £45,000 and we are still not profitable though the gap is starting to close.


Freedom Bakery is one of the only social enterprises working in the Justice sector that has never taken public funding. For the time we were in based in prison, we paid the Scottish Prison Service a monthly fee to operate at HMP Low Moss, covering rent to utilities and prisoner wages.


Isn’t this just a marketing technique? Are you actually making a difference?


Absolutely not, and yes.


Work initiatives in prison, generally speaking, are not as good as they need to be. A typical job of a prisoner coming into a prison kitchen is to pack sugar and tea rations for the prison population. There is no skill, nor motivation in it. We are very passionate as a group about what we’re working on. We want to be among the best and most respected bakeries in the UK. That comes with a depth of skill, knowledge and appreciation that we pass onto all members of the team. It is something to feel pride for, it provides a positive identity and it dissolves the notion that someone is a criminal for life.


In our first 3 years we have worked with 33 people. 10 of them have gone into employment. 2 have reoffended. The pool of people is small because we are small ourselves and because we do not push people out when their time is up. Someone could be with Freedom for 4 months, others have been with us for almost 2 years.


What type of prisoners are involved with Freedom Bakery?


Freedom Bakery is open to all categories of prisoner. We only make the distinction against those who have committed sex crimes or involving children. Predominantly we work with long-term prisoners, which in Scotland is defined as someone serving a sentence of 4 years or more. The crimes these people have committed are diverse. We have worked with people from a broad range of backgrounds and nationalities. Some have spent most of their life in prison whereas others were serving their first sentence when we met them. We have worked with people with physical disabilities, with mental health problems as well as those recovering from addictions.


Are the prisoners who work with you paid? How much are they paid?


Prisoners are all paid for work undertaken during their sentence. Rates of pay for prisoners are controlled by the Justice System and also each individual prison.


Prisoners’ rates of pay depend on several factors including their behavioural record. We as a social enterprise do not have any influence on the amount any individual apprentice is paid, neither are we allowed to pay them directly.


Someone who has been released from prison and takes up employment with us is paid by the same pay scales as the rest of the employees within Freedom Bakery. We pay above minimum wage and generally higher than the baking sector.


We are also working with criminal justice professionals to create a resettlement grant for people leaving prison. This would help someone with those crucial first few weeks after release, i.e. payment for accommodation, clothes, food, etc. Such a thing does not exist in the UK currently. It is common for a person leaving prison to be homeless, without any money, without a job, possibly alienated from their family and may have addictions issues. These are often contributing factors in people reoffending.


Have the prisoner apprentices been enrolled in any formal apprenticeship program by Freedom Bakery?


The formal apprenticeship programs like the Modern Apprenticeship scheme are not open to people currently in prison. It has also been identified by researchers that in such a situation as ours it is very important to start working with people whilst they’re still in prison to build a relationship before they leave.


Therefore what we do offer is the opportunity for an apprentice to undertake a SVQ level 2 craft bakery qualification, assessed independently, whilst working at Freedom Bakery. Again this type of qualification cannot be offered to prisoners currently serving sentences so we pay for the assessment privately. This qualification is recognised nationally and includes modules that are applicable to working in all food environments.


Are you a charity?


No, we are a social enterprise registered as Community Interest Company (by guarantee). We don’t have shareholders nor are we able to distribute profit to individuals. All our profits must be invested back into our organisation or can be transferred to a charitable organisation.


Where do you source your ingredients?


We use the best ingredients available for our dough. We try to source our ingredients locally from biodynamic and organic producers. Our main flour supplier is Mungoswells Farm in East Lothian. All our breads have a minimum 24 hour ferment and we use no additives nor enhancers.


What are your long-term goals?


Over the next few years, we hope to:

  • Reach our target with the number of customers we supply. Once we have done this we are content to maintain the customer base and not to grow the bakery too much.
  • Increase the number of people with convictions as employees within our bakery. Currently they represent a quarter of our team. We want to find ways to increase this to upwards of half of our employees.
  • Diversify. Baking is a great trade but it is not for everyone. We may open another type of enterprise to diversify the opportunities we offer for people.