TradeMutt is proud to support not for profit social enterprise, Work Restart.
Work Restart is a program which aims to empower people with an experience of incarceration to re-start their lives and positively contribute to the community they live in. This is achieved through three main areas. Firstly, the trade team, skilling prisoners for employment in construction, manufacturing and horticulture. Secondly, the entrepreneurial hub, preparing selected prisoners for self-employment and running their own business. Thirdly, reboot digital which connects prisoners with digital opportunities is design, VR, coding and CAD.
In other words, they equip inmates with the skills, education and pathways that prepare them for a new life upon release. By improving prisoners’ chances of securing stable employment, we can significantly reduce the rate of re-offending and help to build a safer community.
As a mental health focussed social enterprise, our goal is to make a positive impact from start to finish, from concept to customer. Although it isn’t always easy, this means supporting other impactful businesses and programs throughout our supply chain, wherever possible.
Were we apprehensive about taking our social enterprise into prison? Definitely.
Why? Because we weren’t sure what people would think of us.
Ed and I were lucky enough to visit Borallon and get an extremely privileged inside look at the world behind bars and it’s safe to say that this was a life-changing experience for both of us. Our interaction with the inmates was nothing but positive, friendly and uplifting for both them and us. For whatever reason these men have ended up incarcerated, they are still just people who have made mistakes and are paying a huge a price. But with the right support, mentoring and education, these men can be contributing members of society once again.
Our support of this program has led to some incredibly positive outcomes:
- Recycled dud shirts – In the early days, we had a huge shipment of shirts where the quality was just not up to standard. A lot of them had minor manufacturing faults and we had to set a precedent with our manufacturer by rejecting them. However, we still got to keep these shirts and have been able to repurpose them, turning them into two awesome products (Grill Skirts and Boot Skadoots) that we are absolutely stoked with.
- Human Connection – On the inside, prisoners don’t have the greatest relationship with security guards. So, when two blokes wearing flamboyantly loud shirts came strutting down the cell block, it’s fair to say that we stood out. Although we were all a bit cagey with each other at first, a bit of general chit chat saw both Ed and I build comfortable relationships with incarcerated men, some of whom haven’t spoken to anyone from the outside for a very long time. Having genuine, meaningful and non-judgmental interaction with these men was the easiest and best thing that both Ed and I have ever been able to give someone. It’s hard to describe, however for us to have the ability to talk with these men face to face, give them the rundown of Trademutt and then thank them for their efforts was incredible. It made them feel valued and it gave them something to believe in.
- Purpose – Given the current global health crisis and the resulting isolation, it might be a better time than ever to empathise with people doing time in prison. Obviously, it’s not meant to be a holiday and these people are locked up for a reason, but monotonous days in an enclosed environment takes an incredible psychological toll. For prisoners to be involved in the work restart program gives them a feeling of purpose while inside. These guys can focus their energy into a positive task and at the end of the day they have something to show for their efforts that they can be proud of.
- Mentorship – Ed and I have been able to see a side to the world that very few people have the chance to experience. As a result, we have been left positively effected and feel a sense of obligation to help support these men moving forward. We believe with the right guidance, mentoring and support, we can help these guys achieve success on the outside and it is now a goal of ours to do everything in our power to make that happen.
- Hope – We were able to stand in front of 40 convicted criminals and explain the three key pillars of TradeMutt being to act with empathy, show compassion and take a non-judgmental approach to any conversation. Taking a non-judgmental approach often means taking the hard path. However, we were able to instil a confidence in these guys that a person should not be defined by the mistakes they have made, but rather their ability to take ownership of their actions, situation and their ability to rebuild.
Some of the stories that we heard while inside Borallon prison were hard to hear. From people who made stupid decisions, to others who had been through significant trauma and never had the support they needed and many who were suffering from significant mental illnesses which is heartbreaking to see.
Ed and I were not interested in how or why anyone ended up inside, nor did we want to know. But as we drove up the driveway on our way out of Borallon, we both agreed that we feel a huge responsibility to help these men achieve stability in their lives both while inside and when they are released.
We can, therefore we must!