August 1, 2019
Returning as our Organization of the Month this August is Just Bakery! Just Bakery is a local Madison organization doing amazing work to help our community. Carmella Glenn, the coordinator of the Just Bakery program, answered some of our questions about the impact of Just Bakery and specifically why they work to help people in their re-entry from the criminal justice system.
What does Just Bakery provide for the Madison community ?
Just Bakery is a vehicle for change for the community in a few ways. We are a trauma-informed peer supported program that works with people that have barriers to employment. Those barriers can be a criminal record, homelessness, mental health, or alcohol and other drug addictions. We train our students in hospitality management and commercial baking. Students earn up to 12 college credits and automatic acceptance to Madison College culinary programs.
We are also a business. We sell our products in the community to self-sustain our program. We work closely with Dane County Jail Huber program also and half of our students are currently incarcerated while attending.
Why is helping people when they get out of prison helpful to the entire Madison community ?
Most of the people that go to prison are there for non-violent crimes and struggle with substance use disorder and mental health disorder. Most will come home and reenter the community with those disorders unaddressed. If you take it from a safety view, we as a community should want to make our community safe which means allowing those who struggle to get the help they need. If we take it from humanity view, we are only as good as our weakest. If we teach people how to work through their trauma and disorders, they will do the rest.
What has been the most significant achievement of the Just Bakery program ?
We have had so many great achievements. We have a large contract with UW hospital, we actually make all their cookies. We have a collaboration with Sassy Cow making delicious ice-cream sandwiches. We have a new collaboration with Short Stack that will be announced this month. Those are business successes and mean a lot but the biggest achievements are the personal success stories of our students.
The change we see is extensive. The man who has been in and out of jail and struggles with reading and math takes our program twice and graduates with all the certificates. He then goes on to culinary school. The woman who has been sex trafficked learns to regulate in a crowd and is able to gain employment. The veteran who had struggled with PTSD so extreme that he could not live in a house. He had to be outside so he rented a storage locker and would sleep in or around it. He starts working with Journey Mental Health and graduates. Just Bakery assists in employment and keeps working with him for a year. He now lives in an apartment and loves his job. Every student that comes through Just Bakery is an achievement.
What is your favorite part of working at Just Bakery ?
Now that is a difficult question. I as the coordinator have a degree in culinary arts and Criminal Justice which literally makes Just Bakery my sweet spot. I love and strive in the chaos. Every single cohort offers all of us a learning experience.
What do you think members of the community can do to help the formerly incarcerated in Madison and Dane County ?
There are lots of things people could do for those that are justice involved. We could support those that are out there applying for jobs.. If we own a business we could ban the box (not ask on application if you have committed a crime) and allow people to interview before doing background check.