Incarcerated men enter program to learn how to become Starbucks baristas upon release

The program is being run out of Mate’s Inn, a restaurant and training facility on the grounds of the Department of Corrections headquarters in Trenton.

Matt Trapani

May 1, 2023, 11:34 PM

Updated 439 days ago

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The New Jersey Department of Corrections is trying a new program to teach inmates how to become Starbucks baristas.
The program offers career training for people who are incarcerated and are preparing for their release. Five men are taking part in the eight-week course through a partnership with the Trenton Starbucks.
“Re-entry efforts are working in the state of New Jersey,” says Department of Corrections Commissioner Victoria Kuhn.
The program is being run out of Mate’s Inn, a restaurant and training facility on the grounds of the Department of Corrections headquarters in Trenton.
“We know that this is life changing. And whatever they did before has no consequence on what they're going to embark on in the future,” says Cher McCall, community employment program coordinator.
One of the men participating in the program is Augustine Pagano, a Union native who heard about the program through flyers dropped off near the facility where he's serving an aggravated manslaughter sentence.
Shortly after the barista program is over, he's eligible to go from prison to a halfway house and to eventually be released.
“I can literally use this to go home, start a career and use the opportunities that were given to my benefit,” Pagano says.
Mate's Inn already has a full-service kitchen where inmates make lunch for Department of Corrections employees and guests. Soon they'll be adding all kinds of Starbucks coffee to the menu.
“Cold brew, lattes, cappuccinos, everything with espresso,” says Kiana Justiniano.
Justiniano manages the Starbucks a few miles away in downtown Trenton. Over the course of eight Tuesdays this spring, she'll be teaching the five men the secrets of fine coffeemaking.
It's a program the Corrections Department wants to see grow and expand to other facilities.
“This is the first-ever in the state of New Jersey, so we’re excited,” says McCall.
Incarcerated people who are 36 months away from release are eligible to participate in the program.


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