A HIGH-flying student has ditched his dreams of academia to open a bakery in Glasgow.
Matt Fountain, 26, from Dennistoun, plans to go into local prisons to train inmates to cook bread, cakes and pastries to sell in the city's shops and supermarkets.
On their release the ex-cons will be offered jobs in his Freedom Bakery, which he hopes to open in time for next year's Commonwealth Games.
Matt, who had planned to take up a place at Oxford University to study for a PhD in Social and Economic History, was prompted to set up the venture following the experience of an acquaintance who was jailed three times and struggled to find work when released.
He decided to launch his bakery business in Glasgow after completing a marathon cycle trip of Britain, visiting homelessness hotspots.
In 2011, his mum, Margaret, and then 11-year-old sister Georgia, had been hours away from being on the streets after they were evicted from their home.
The family had fallen into debt and were unable to pay their rent.
While he was cycling, Matt thought about what his family had been through and decided to launch a charity to help people struggling to secure a roof over their heads.
He said: "To be away on the road, out of ordinary life, does have an affect on you.
"I guess I knew that before and I was looking forward to seeing things in a different way.
"I felt like if I was to leave and go to Oxford I would find myself in a situation I didn't want to be in.
"What I want to do is work with people."
His decision to launch his prison bakery business stemmed from watching someone he knew fall into a vicious circle after being released from prison.
Matt said each time the man, who he did not want to identify, was released he was full of plans to stay on the straight and narrow, but the reality of being an ex-con looking for work soon pushed him back towards illegal ways.
He said: "He was someone who didn't fit the criminal stereotype.
"He was first arrested and put in prison for credit card fraud.
"But what happened afterwards...this is the reoffending story.
"He goes to prison, he meets people there, he makes 'friends', he understands you can make money this way, you can make money that way.
"Then he gets out and what is typical is that, although you are on probation, there is very little of what I would deem pastoral care, care to ensure a prisoner is understanding they have to pay their rent, how to get a job, and also there is a lot of stigma if you are an ex-con trying to get a job.
"Then they just fall into the same circles and what eventually happened was he was involved in more serious crime."
For a long time Matt blanked that experience, but, after the 2000 mile bike ride to raise money and awareness for homelessness charity Shelter, he decided to launch the bakery project.
He said: "Turning it into a positive is simply understanding that men and people have a worth and it might require that they are tended to more to draw that out of them.
"I think about that and I also think about myself, in the sense that we are in a phase now where graduates, people of my generation are over qualified, but does that mean they can't do the job?
"For a quite a while I did try to find jobs and I was always getting the same response and it does do something to you, you feel kind of useless, so I can empathise with someone on the other side of the scale."
Matt believes the man he knew could have been helped if he had had access to a programme such as the Freedom Bakery.
He said: "It's 'freedom' because it is providing people with a way out of a life that could quite easily lead to reoffending.
"But also freedom in the sense that what you get is going to be the best.
"I hope that by the time the Commonwealth Games kick off, I will be selling baked products in stores around Glasgow."