Offenders across the UK, particularly in women's establishments, are to be trained up as baristas by Pret a Manger staff in the hope of landing a job at the chain when upon release.
Staff from the sandwich shops will give coffee training workshops in prisons in a bid to help rehabilitation.
Plans were in progress to install two machines and an in-house coffee shop at HMP Holloway, a 590-capacity women's jail in north London, in December last year.But they were recently scrapped after the Government decided to close the jail, the largest women's prison in Europe - which is due to close this summer. The scheme, however, was said to be a 'pioneering' project involving one of the most successful businesses in the UK, known for its posh sandwiches and snacks, and the Prison Service.
The Prison Service is 'very keen' on ensuring prisoners leave jail as 'assets' who will not start offending again - and getting them jobs is a key target for Michael Gove, the Justice Minister.
A Prison Service spokesman said that despite the Pret scheme falling through at HMP Holloway, it was looking to implement it in jails around the UK - especially women's jails - to help them get jobs upon their release.
The spokesman said: 'We want to make sure women prisoners serve their sentences in more humane surroundings that support their rehabilitation, maintain strong family ties and keep them out of crime. Prison should also help offenders get the skills and qualifications to make a success of life on the outside.
'We should see them as potential assets, people who can contribute to society and put something back. We have secured £1.3 billion to modernise the prison estate and we will put governors in charge. These reforms will ensure prisons are places of decency and improve public safety by reducing reoffending.'
Among the gourmet coffees inmates are learning to make - using 100 per cent organic Arabica beans from Peru, Honduras, Sumatra and Ethiopia - include cappuccinos, espresso, flat whites, lattes and mochas, as well as various 'syrup shots' or caramel, hazelnut and vanilla.
Prisoners who land a job at Pret a Manger - which translates as 'ready to eat' - upon their release will get £8.50 per hour, free food during work, two 'legendary Pret parties' each year and 28 days holiday.
Other benefits include no zero hour contracts, weekly pay, 50 per cent discount on Pret food when you are not at work.
There are an estimated 19,000 coffee shops in the UK - and it is estimated that within the next 15 years the number of coffee houses could overtake the number of pubs in Britain.
There are around 48,000 pubs in Britain now - compared to 69,000 in 1980 - but they are closing at a rate of 31-a-week, that's more than 1,600 closing their doors every year.
A prison source, who asked not to be named, said: 'Most of the courses (in jail) cover the basic trades, like painting and decorating - or in women's jail hairdressing and sewing.
'This is a new one on me, although it's not a surprise I guess with the number of coffee shops around nowadays.'
A spokeswoman for Pret A Manger confirmed that the scheme at HMP Holloway has been cancelled because of the imminent closure of the jail, but said it was committed to working with prisons to help offenders get jobs through its Pret Foundation Trust.
She said the firm's Apprenticeship Scheme, set up by Pret Foundation Trust, aimed at helping ex-offenders and homeless people back to work. The scheme says it lets offenders 'start with a clean slate' and that it has offered 330 places to homeless people and ex-offenders.
Source: Anthony Joseph, Daily Mail