Sodexo and Prisons: Our Commitment to Help Reduce Re-Offending

Published on : 10/2/20
  • On the surface, life was going well for Siobhan. She was working two steady jobs: one at the local council, and a second as a receptionist in the Accident and Emergency Department at the local hospital. But behind closed doors, Siobhan was battling an addiction that turned her world upside down. This addiction led to a prison sentence, but, as she’ll tell you, it changed her life for the better.

    Siobhan started gambling around the age of 17, mostly online. By 21, her addiction was getting out of control. She stopped caring about others, and became selfish and hard faced.  

    Siobhan will tell you that part of the problem was that she was used to getting whatever she wanted. Her finances were a mess, with overdrafts and a £30,000 bank loan. And then, she was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, so she began isolating herself from friends and loved ones, living in a bubble as she battled addiction and mental health issues. 

    Because you can’t physically see a gambling addiction, it was easier for Siobhan to hide. She attended a few Gamblers Anonymous sessions, but was just paying lip service to it, as she says. In 2017, she entered an eight-week residential rehab course which set her straight, but it wasn’t long until she fell  back into her old ways.  

    After relapsing, Siobhan was arrested for fraud, leading to her first realization that her addiction had control over her. Once her court date arrived, she realized she had to take responsibility. In November 2017, at Reading Crown Court, she pled guilty and was given sentences of 28 months and 18 months, to run concurrently.  

    Siobhan served her sentences at HMP Bronzefield. Bronzefield is an adult (18+) female prison located in Ashford in Middlesex, England. Bronzefield is the largest female prison in Europe with capacity for up to 557 prisoners. The prison is operated by Sodexo Justice Services. It opened in 2004 as a purpose-built facility and serves as a step-change for prison facilities for women in the U.K. Bronzefield is a dynamic, forward-thinking prison that accommodates a diverse and complex population of Category A prisoners (high-risk, restricted status prisoners). 

    As Siobhan puts it, “when the door slams behind you, you realize this is it.” Shortly after starting her sentence, Siobhan received some friendly encouragement from the Sodexo team.  

    “From the first day, the Sodexo prison team at Bronzefield encouraged me to use my time wisely. There were so many things to get involved in, work and education,” said Siobhan. 

    Having studied in beauty school prior to her arrest, Siobhan worked at the prison salon every day for eight months and completed her Level 2 hair qualification. She also took a business administration course and English Level 2. Siobhan noted that Bronzefield was a good environment to get to know people and listen to other offenders’ stories. It really helped open her eyes to the world around her. She also credits the positive impact she was able to make through her work, by making other inmates look and feel their best,  for helping her tremendously.  

    “The time I spent at Bronzefield helped me find myself again. I felt like I was like a broken car and bit by bit I put myself back together.” 

    After 10 months, Siobhan was released from prison. She moved back home and began applying for jobs in local health and beauty salons, but faced constant rejection due to her criminal record. That’s when the team at Bronzefield stepped in and offered her an opportunity she couldn’t refuse. 

    By keeping in touch with her connections at Bronzefield, she learned about a new coffee shop opening up at the prison by Sodexo. She was asked to manage it. In December 2018, she began her new role, with training courses in health, safety and allergen awareness under her belt..  

    Today, Siobhan serves as an inspiration for other offenders at Bronzefield and those who are being released.  

    “I’ve been in their shoes and if they want to chat over a coffee, I’m happy to share my story. It’s good to be able to reassure the families who are worried about loved ones, too. As an ex-resident, they can look at me and see there is hope.” 

     “I see my future with Sodexo now [that] I’ve been given this chance.”

    Her hope is to eventually go into recovery support and work with people within the prison system. 

    In 2020, Siobhan moved into a new role at a local beauty salon – her dream job! She is using her qualifications and skills acquired during her time at Bronzefield. She credits her role at the coffee shop as being a great steppingstone, giving her the confidence to go into the career she wanted.