Justin* has fallen in love with the coffee industry. He has always loved food and is a decent cook, but recently he was released from prison, started training at a coffee kiosk called Second Chance Coffee and something has clicked.
Second Chance, outside the Sunshine Magistrates Court, was set up by Vacro, a Melbourne-based group who work with released prisoners to assist them in facing the issues that confront them upon their release. While re-skilling and reconnecting with society is why Justin is employed, his new-found love of coffee is a good surprise, “I’ve been inside a long time; being at Second Chance Coffee helped me feel normal,” he says. Feeling normal is something that can be difficult for those who are released from prison and this kiosk is one way of allowing former inmates and those on Community Correction Orders to get comfortable with connection, confidence and conversation again.
Jessie Fay, the manager of Second Chance Coffee, talks of these elements - connection, confidence and conversation - as three things from which people who have spent time in prison often become detached. “Soft job skills that you can take into any job are often lost after time in prison,” she says. “Prison can slow down the mind and spending long periods of time not thinking for yourself is another factor that makes it hard to adjust when trying to resettle outside.”
For those released from prison into the community, obtaining employment is the single biggest predictor for successful transitioning but getting a job can be very difficult for people with a criminal record.
Fay has experience in the hospitality industry - particularly in specialty coffee - and a degree in psychology and Indigenous Australian studies. She staffs the kiosk and is involved in training the participants - the name given to those who are transitioning back into society. Hospitality professionals work with participants in the kiosk, which is open Monday to Friday from 730 am to 2 pm.
There are many complexities to operating a venue like Second Chance Coffee. “We need to manage the participant’s privacy and while we would like publicity we need to be really careful,” Fay says, “we have policies in place to manage privacy and safety.”
Participants at Second Chance Coffee are provided with individualised training and work experience, and they contribute to the cause as profits from the kiosk are used to support children with a parent in contact with the criminal justice system. The profits go towards child and family counsellors who support children and their carers to cope with the impact of the justice system.
They have strong support from the broader community. Noreen Toohey, the Chief Magistrate at Sunshine Court, and her staff are fully supportive of the kiosk and Equity Trustees, the Buckland Foundation and the Besen Family Foundation offered to fund the project.
The Governor of Victoria, Her Excellency, the Hon. Linda Dessau AM, launched the kiosk in late April and it’s been embraced by the locals and workers in the area, as well as those who have to attend court.
As the first participant, Justin* has been inspiring to all. “It made me think about how I communicate and I realised I enjoyed talking and interacting with people. I’ve found a new opportunity for my future as I have learnt to love the world of coffee.” And as they plan to open more kiosks in similar judicial centres, the organisers of Second Chance Coffee hope that Justin* and other participants will have to opportunity to again, be normal.
*name changed to protect privacy.