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Greg McKenzie, Project Founder, Inside Out

New initiative tackles unemployment amongst young ex-offenders

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Prison leavers receive mentoring to create and market clothing range

A new project, established by social enterprise Inside Out, has been launched to rehabilitate young ex-offenders by helping them create and market a clothing brand. The hand-produced clothing range is currently being sold in a pop-up store in London.

New data from Cebr, commissioned by LinkedIn, estimates that only 2 in 10 prison leavers can find work in the first year after their release. According to the data based on prison leavers in 2020, the unemployment rate for ex-offenders is 89% six weeks after their release and only improves to 44% a year after their release.

The initiative, supported by LinkedIn, provided training and mentoring to a group of ex-offenders. The prison leavers were aged between 18 and 27 years and struggling to find work, and the project was designed to build skills to help them find permanent employment.

The programme taught the young people technical skills, such as screen printing and design, business skills, like sales and marketing, as well as soft skills – including teamwork and problem-solving. Additionally, they were assisted in building professional profiles on LinkedIn and taught best practices on networking and applying for roles.

The clothing range is a collection of branded hoodies, hats, T-shirts, facemasks, and bags and is available for purchase at ‘Blank Canvas’, a pop-up store in Westfield Stratford, London, between the 19th and 28th April.

Tashan Lane-Pierre, Project Ambassador, Inside Out Project, said: “I started my own clothing line in 2017 before I went to prison. Now that I’m out, I want to learn the business of fashion, how it’s produced behind the scenes in the hope that I’ll be able to run my own label one day. The skills I’m learning through this project will help me in business and I’m excited to be a part of it. I just want the opportunity to be treated normally and not judged for my past actions.” 

Janine Chamberlin, UK Country Manager at LinkedIn, said: “This group is full of ideas and it’s been amazing to see their drive to go on and make a positive impact in the world. Ex-offenders have a lot to offer potential employers and I really hope the skills they’ve learned and the networks they are building through this programme will help them find a fresh start and a new role.”

Inside Out Project Founder Greg McKenzie, said: “Unemployment rates for former prisoners are much higher than among the wider population, even ten years after release. But there is a positive correlation between employment and reduced reoffending, which shows the need for proactive policies to ensure more prison leavers are able to access job opportunities and the tools and training they need to succeed. This is what Inside Out is all about.”

The hope is that projects such as Inside Out will help prison-leavers with their unemployment challenges and reduce reoffending.

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