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Incarcerated Individuals Open Coffee Shop at Springfield Facility

Springfield, VT – The Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) announced this week the Good Spirits Café has officially opened its doors to incarcerated individuals and staff at Southern State Correctional Facility (SSCF). The café is an innovative small business venture created by incarcerated individuals of the SSCF honor unit—a special residential housing unit with increased independence and behavior contracts—with assistance from DOC staff. 

“Most of us have dreams of starting a small business of our own but haven’t any idea how or where to begin,” said Michael Lewis, who has resided in DOC custody since 2008. “So, I purchased a self-help book on how to build a start-up business, created a Power Point, and completed a three-week business plan class. The coffee shop seemed like the perfect fit for this innovative venture.” 

According to Lewis, the coffee shop creates teaching and learning opportunities, provides hands-on vocational training, and offers a unique first-hand perspective of operating and managing a small business.  

Other individuals involved in the project say it also significantly bolstered their confidence, self-esteem, and will hopefully reduce the possibility of their returning to prison. 

“I applaud the hard work, ingenuity, and keen entrepreneurial spirit of Mr. Lewis and the entire café team,” said Nicholas J. Deml, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. “I had the opportunity to visit the Good Spirits Café last week and was deeply impressed with their operation. This skill-based training prepares those in DOC custody for a Vermont workforce that acutely needs their talents. This is exactly the direction Vermont should be heading.” 

The honors unit at SSCF is the second of two honors units across the state correctional system, the other being housed at the state’s women’s facility, Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF) in South Burlington.  DOC intends to explore the opportunity to launch additional honors units in other state facilities in 2023 and plans to use these units to incubate cutting edge correctional and vocational rehabilitation practices that better prepare justice-involved individuals for successful reentry into Vermont communities. 

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