Sodexo and Prisons: How Skills Learning in Prison Helps Reduce Reoffending

Published on : 10/2/20
  • HMP Northumberland is an adult (18+) male prison located in Morpeth, United Kingdom. Northumberland opened in 2011 and is a Category C prison, housing 1,348 men. Category C prisoners are inmates who cannot be trusted in an open prison, but are recognized as being unlikely to escape. In general, Category C prisoners:  

    • Have a previous sentence of 12 months or more for crimes such as violence, arson, drug dealing, importation, threat of violence or sex-related offenses;
    • Are currently serving a sentence longer than 12 months for the crimes listed above;
    • Have an outstanding confiscation order or other further charges against them; and/or
    • Have a history of breaching bail within a three-year period, failing to surrender or absconding. 

    Upon opening in 2011, Northumberland served as the merging of two previously separate facilities, creating fresh challenges and opportunities. Northumberland is a public sector facility that has been operated by Sodexo Justice Services since 2013. It’s also home to a variety of industries, including a tailor workshop. The workshop building itself used to be an aircraft hangar, but is now occupied by Sodexo’s team of instructors, all fully qualified and highly skilled in their craft.  

    Industry workshops are used to teach prisoners valuable skills that help with prisoner rehabilitation and job placement after incarceration. Sodexo’s team looks after around 80 offenders daily, Monday – Friday, and is responsible for equipping these offenders with the skills, knowledge and confidence to use the equipment in the workshop, including sewing machines.  

    Since the workshop is functional, output centers around cut, make and trim garments, such as catering coats, food service aprons, shirts, banners, bedding and towels. They also recycle old uniforms and transform them into dog coats and other dog clothes, which are donated to Alexa’s Animals, a dog rescue located in Alnwick. 

    There is a real work ethic within the workshop, which provides offenders with the best environment to gain a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in manufacturing, English and Math.  

    This high-quality training enables the offenders to do their job effectively, and recognizes and accredits the skills that they have developed. This helps tremendously with prisoner rehabilitation, prisoner resettlement and job placement for the formerly incarcerated. Offenders that can prove their skills and experiences are much more likely to be able to secure employment upon release. Statistics have proved that offenders who secure employment are 50% less likely to re-offend.  

    One of the offenders recently said this of his role within the workshop:  

    "There’s a lot of trust placed on me in this job, and while l’m doing it, I feel like l’m at work at a proper job."

    Thanks to the support, guidance and supervision of the Sodexo instructors, Northumberland offenders who work in this workshop submitted the prison’s first ever entry to The Koestler Awards, and were subsequently chosen to have their work exhibited at London’s South Bank last year. This is an excellent achievement, as there were 7,000 entries submitted and their entry was one of only 220 to be put on show. 

    More recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the offenders from Northumberland have been involved in various activities to help our local National Health Services (NHS) with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This included the production of NHS PPE Gowns for usage in our Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust sites which include:  

    • Wansbeck General Hospital (Ashington)
    • Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital (Cramlington)
    • Alnwick Infirmary 

    The prison decided to produce these protective garments to the NHS free of charge. In line with social distancing, the prison reduced offender numbers within the tailor workshop.

    fabric pieces for dress

    Currently, the prison is taking on the manufacturing of more aprons to the local NHS Trust and Care Homes. And, in fact, is taking over the manufacturing of aprons from Nissan, the global car manufacturer, for Royal College of Nursing and Unite for U.K. 

    Samantha Pariser, Director at HMP Northumberland said:  

    "Both HMP Northumberland and Sodexo Justice are delighted to be taking over this project from Nissan. Not only is it great to be giving back to local and regional NHS Trusts and care homes, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity for our residents within the establishment to learn new skills which will help them once they have been released, while also decreasing the likelihood of reoffending."

    Sodexo is proud of the work we do in Northumberland.