I was reading an article this weekend about how The Bad Boys Bakery in Brixton Prison was having success in terms of rehabilitating offenders and that the government is trying to “revolutionise” rehabilitation. Whilst this commercial bakery operating out of HMP Brixton is small with only room for 20 people working (out of a total number of 740 inmates) the re offending figures of just 3% for those that have trained in the kitchen compared to over 40% who haven’t has to be a continued pointer that giving people skills and something to fill their lives has to be better than just “banging up” offenders and giving them little opportunity to be productive human beings. There is definitely something in the saying “The Devil finds work for idle hands”. Perhaps the best news is that over a third of those who have been part of The Bad Boys Bakery have found employment soon after their release.
My youngest daughter is doing some work with Fine Cell Work, a social enterprise that works with prisoners in producing detailed embroidery on cushions, quilts, gifts whilst in their cells. Unlike Bad Boys Bakery I requires far less investment in terms of equipment and has really longevity having started in 1997.
None of these prison manufacturing initiatives receive significant negative press. Society has started to does the concept of offender rehabilitation.
It was very different though in 1994 when with our first brand Red or Dead we developed our first proper work wear collection. With a combination of clever marketing (the history of work wear is wrapped up in the US prison system) and our strong social conscience we approached maximum security prison Full Sutton in York to see if they could make a range we, perhaps, cheekily called it Keyhole Clothing.
Full Sutton prison was home to some of the UK’s most dangerous and notorious prisoners and when the press got hold of the story that we were manufacturing there we were pilloried in the less enlightened (tabloid) media. Even our young kids were “door stopped” and asked, “what do you think about your mum and dad supporting murderers?”
Our Keyhole Clothing range and our political statements on the catwalk resulted in the media running headlines such as ‘Bloody Disgrace’ whilst our following from a cool enlightened public continued to grow and the Hemingway DNA for social design became cemented in people’s minds.