Prisoners' potential on the rise, along with their bread

For a group of prisoners at Waikeria Prison, the smell of fresh bread is the smell of hope, opportunity and home.

Thanks to a dedicated team of organisers and instructors at the prison, 10 prisoners have just achieved a national certificate in baking, leaving them well set up for when they get out.

In the past year, they mastered everything from baking to health and safety rules, and even bakery science.

They were all hand selected by the bakery's principal instructor, Rob Pepperell, and a team of instructors and case managers, based on good behaviour, potential and motivation to work. "It's quite a sought-after position. If they want a hot loaf of bread, they can have it. They sample everything - quality control," said Mr Pepperell.

The workers are all remand prisoners waiting for their day in court.

"We try to keep them as busy as possible because it can be quite a trying time for a lot of them. It's also just giving them as many skills as possible. They can go out and work . . . be self-sufficient and go home and cook for their families.

"It also just keeps them out of mischief."

The bakery, established in 1999, is the only one of its kind in New Zealand. It has produced award-winning baked goods and helped secure proper jobs for prisoners.

For one prisoner, it was a huge opportunity to learn, as well as a chance at a brighter future.

"It's really good, we get certificates at the end of the day and more job opportunities when we get out. I was really stoked to be chosen. It's a lot better than just sitting around in the yard all day. You're active and busy; we bake the best bread around and we get a fresh lunch. Now I can go home and cook it for the family," he said.

Mr Pepperell said some inmates had never had real jobs but worked at the bakery from 6am to 2pm, Monday to Friday, producing thousands of loaves of bread, pies and sweet treats, mainly for internal functions and prisoner meals.

"When they get their certificates their families are all absolutely buzzing," he said.

"I've had people come up to me in the street and shake my hand and say thank you for the opportunity. It's really great to see."

Waikato Times