I first came across a company that trained and ultilised labour from prisons in Eastern Europe at an event at Potassium London back in 2012.
‘Jailed nine years ago for stealing lorries, Sergio is adamant he won’t join the long line of ex-offenders heading back into Mexico’s notoriously violent, overcrowded prison system. Reoffending rates in the country stand at 44%.
Sergio’s chances might be better than most. After leaving jail three months ago, he joined Prison Art, a social enterprise operating in six prisons in the states of Guadalajara and Queretaro to make high-end textile goods.
“Leaving prison, my only option apart from this was a minimum-wage job some place. With Prison Art, I can work from home and the pay allows me to look after my mother and daughter,” Sergio says.
Prison Art sells bags, wallets, belts and other accessories in 11 shops around Mexico, as well as internationally online. The designs are inspired by tattooing, an art form that the social enterprise’s founder Jorge Cueto-Felgueroso became familiar with during the 11 months he spent in a Guadalajara prison awaiting trial for fraud…
Taller Nu is another social enterprise working in Mexico’s prisons. Set up by 29 year-old fashion designer Pilar Obeso and her business partner Olga Olivares, the company produces high-end shoes that sell in designer stores in Miami and New York, as well as across Mexico. The company, which currently counts 25 female inmates on its work training programme, also offers courses in self-empowerment via a non-profit partner. Participants are paid on a per-product basis.’
Images: An inmate making shoes for Taller Nu, a Mexican social enterprise that works with prisoners to produce high-end shoes. Photograph: Taller Nu