Coop Academy at the Franklin County Jail

This summer, TESA is supporting six people who are incarcerated in the Franklin County House of Corrections to develop a pedal powered composting cooperative that would serve Franklin County.

The idea was first born in the class on cooperatives Andrew led at the jail last fall. The idea continued to bubble in the Think Tank, a weekly discussion and popular education circle that happens inside the Franklin County Jail. TESA’s Andrew Stachiw is a Think Tank facilitator.

Now the 12-week-long Coop Academy is focused on designing the composting cooperative, all the way from the business plan and market research to values and cooperative governance.

“Through collective conversations, we just kept coming back to how hard it is for folks to have meaningful employment, or employment period,” Andrew says.

Franklin County has one of the highest recidivism rates—or the rate that people go back to jail after being released—in Massachusetts. The struggle of finding a job after getting released inspired the idea of starting a coop business that could support people getting out of jail.

“Philosophically, the regenerative quality of composting struck a chord with people,” Andrew says about why composting became the focus of the coop idea. “The composting coop is hyper-local, so people can feel like they’re starting to give back to their community right away.”

Offered in partnership with the Franklin County House of Corrections and Greenfield Community College (GCC), the Coop Academy is structured like an internship. All participants inside the jail are enrolled students at GCC, receive two course credits, and complete the internship requirement for an associate’s degree.

The class covers market research, developing a worker-owner manual, and fleshing out business operations. The class participants have met with different organizations that support coops, such as Pedal People and Martin’s Farm.

Andrew is a trained escort and is able to take participants out of the jail. The class went on a field trip to Martin’s Farm, the composting facility where they will drop off the organic matter. The intention is for folks inside the jail to be in charge of their own business planning and build the relationships with other businesses from the very beginning.

To learn more about our work with people incarcerated in the Franklin County House of Corrections, check out a blog post about our class on cooperatives at the jail.

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