Second Chances for America’s Willing

 

shutterstock_169455167I have a great job, somewhat self-designed, that lets me meet business owners and their employees across a wide variety of industries. I have noticed an emergence, not yet a trend, of small businesses taking chances on people to staff jobs that are going unfilled. Unfilled not because of a lack of pay, but a lack of applicants who show-up sober and work until the task is done. The jobs range from restaurant work, to roofing, to machining, to cabinet making, and more.

It seems some of the best employees are recovering addicts and felons who have hit bottom and are imbued with some very harsh lessons in personal growth. Their work ethic can far exceed the average victims’ studies college graduate. They have a desire to learn, to fill in the holes our public school system left in their education, sometimes due to the school, often due to their behavior.

All of these efforts are tied to owners who have a personal commitment and drive to help. Our country needs more of this. We cannot keep writing-off people and places. Communities can come back, small business by small business, person by person, one at a time. We need to blow-up the barriers.

If conservatives want to excite the electorate, they need to get behind flesh-and-blood examples of this, not charts and platitudes. If we want to enthuse a new generation, this can be how.

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Hurricane Sandy destroys Breezy Point Queens, NY over 100 homes. Photo Credit: Pinterest

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  1. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    Amen.

    • #1
  2. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    John Kasich has actually addressed this in Ohio.  Requiring the removal of the ‘have you been convicted of a felony’ box from job applications.  The idea being that even though the employer is still likely to find out with a background check or google, they will look longer at the person by not simply throwing away every application that says ‘yes’.

    Haven’t heard any detail on results.

    • #2
  3. Brian McMenomy Inactive
    Brian McMenomy
    @BrianMcMenomy

    There is a pizza chain mostly up in the Seattle area called MOD (Made on Demand) Pizza that explicitly seeks out people coming from difficult circumstances (Jail, addiction, all manner of poor personal choices) and gives the both a second chance and integrates them into a strong corporate culture with high expectations and fun.  It makes the experience of going to a MOD a very interesting one, and very enjoyable.  The pizza is great (and all the toppings you want, for the same price), and the service is really quite good.

    If you haven’t checked out the Doe Fund (featured in Arthur Brooks’ book The Conservative Heart), do so.  You’re not the only one that sees the need for tapping this unused human potential created in God’s image (marred by a lot of mess, but it’s still); but there are too few.  Thanks for the reminder, it’s good to hear progress is being made.

    • #3
  4. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Brian McMenomy: There is a pizza chain mostly up in the Seattle area called MOD (Made on Demand) Pizza that explicitly seeks out people coming from difficult circumstances (Jail,

    I know MOD quite well. Their CEO is a bright star in this. We need much more.

    The best part is the informality, the one person at a time approach.

    • #4
  5. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Beautiful. Thank you.

    • #5
  6. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    This is perfect, TKC.

    • #6
  7. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    We have a local recovery house called Steps House whose residents are often employed through a nearby staffing agency.  We have been able to find a few long term employees from that program, really good guys who are trying to keep straight.  I like to do that when I can but something like that is really the only way I know to purposefully target that group of people.

    • #7
  8. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    TKC1101:

    All of these efforts are tied to owners who have a personal commitment and drive to help. Our country needs more of this.

    Absolutely, and I think you may have more allies in this than you might think. There are precious few things better than someone turning his life around upon being given the opportunity.

    • #8
  9. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    TKC1101:All of these efforts are tied to owners who have a personal commitment and drive to help. Our country needs more of this. We cannot keep writing-off people and places. Communities can come back, small business by small business, person by person, one at a time.

    Indeed, and we should encourage and applaud it where it can happen. At the same time, some places are inherently broken and I think it’s a mistake to expect the people there to stick it out when there are better possibilities elsewhere. Sometimes, places die.

    All of our ancestors left their homes in the Old World to build something new here. I’d hate for us to lose that spirit.

    • #9
  10. Tenacious D Inactive
    Tenacious D
    @TenaciousD

    TKC1101:

    Brian McMenomy: There is a pizza chain mostly up in the Seattle area called MOD (Made on Demand) Pizza that explicitly seeks out people coming from difficult circumstances (Jail,

    I know MOD quite well. Their CEO is a bright star in this. We need much more.

    The best part is the informality, the one person at a time approach.

    Seattle also has Street Bean, a coffee shop that employs “street involved” youth.

    • #10
  11. A-Squared Inactive
    A-Squared
    @ASquared

    In Chicago, there was a hot stand named “Felony Franks” that was founded on the idea of hiring ex-felons to give them a second chance.

    A Chicago city alderman blocked them from putting up a sign with their name and generally harassed them until they went out of business. Fortunately, they were able relocate to Oak Park, oddly enough a suburb known for its hostility to businesses.

    Since they’ve re-opened in Oak Park, our family has become frequent customers.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    This is an excellent post, TKC. Thank you. It serves the community, those who need a hand up and the businesses. It doesn’t get any better than that.

    • #12
  13. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    TKC1101:The jobs range from restaurant work, to roofing, to machining, to cabinet making, and more.

    Sounds like the work that skilled tradesmen do for the most part, aside from the restaurant thing.

    I see no reason why felons couldn’t do this sort of work – but… they’re felons, man.  Felonies tend to be pretty serious business.  I would be uncomfortable working with people in a professional environment who’ve been in prison.

    I suppose I’ve outed myself as an elitist or something.

    • #13
  14. A-Squared Inactive
    A-Squared
    @ASquared

    If we really want to help felons, we need to get rid of laws (and more importantly, regulations) that make it an expensive and a time-consuming process to fire people.

    For an employer to take a chance on a risky employee, they need to be able to cut their losses if it doesn’t work out.  Unfortunately, our employment law makes that difficult, particularly for minorities.

    Right now, any minorities that get fired for any reason are presumed to be a lawsuit waiting to happen.  And the increased risk of a felon makes the risk not worth taking for too many employers.

    • #14
  15. livingthehighlife Inactive
    livingthehighlife
    @livingthehighlife

    There’s a local organization called Denton Freedom House that works with men coming out of the prison system.

    They have a coffee shop called Zera Coffee that these men work in, providing some opportunity to build a resume and reestablish a work ethic instead of falling back on the addictions that landed them in the criminal justice center.

    There are thousands of examples all throughout this country.  Is there enough?  No, not at all.  Do programs like this stop the cultural causes of criminal behavior?  Nope.  But they all seek to stop the cycle that sometimes lasts generations, and for that they deserve our support.

    • #15
  16. Bob Laing Member
    Bob Laing
    @

    Niche businesses that prepare foods with felons are great lessons about the power of redemption, but they are not a model for economic success.  People should be judged on a case by case basis.  A person who writes bad checks and a serial rapist might both be considered felons, but I’m much more apt to give the first a chance at redemption. THAT said, if I have a third candidate who doesn’t have a felony arrest, all other things equal, I shouldn’t select either of the felons.  I would be acting against my own best interest.

    • #16
  17. Bob Laing Member
    Bob Laing
    @

    livingthehighlife:There’s a local organization called Denton Freedom House that works with men coming out of the prison system.

    They have a coffee shop called Zera Coffee that these men work in, providing some opportunity to build a resume and reestablish a work ethic instead of falling back on the addictions that landed them in the criminal justice center.

    There are thousands of examples all throughout this country. Is there enough? No, not at all. Do programs like this stop the cultural causes of criminal behavior? Nope. But they all seek to stop the cycle that sometimes lasts generations, and for that they deserve our support.

    I totally agree, but it is worth noting that these establishments are typically non-profits.  In a world where maximizing shareholder value (or grinding out a living as a small business owner) is the primary concern, you should be very careful in hiring people whose history indicates behavioral problems.

    • #17
  18. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Speaking as someone whose day job is with a for-profit company trying to find jobs for disabled veterans, I agree.

    • #18
  19. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    TKC1101: Unfilled not because of a lack of pay, but a lack of applicants who show-up sober and work until the task is done.

    This is a perennial problem for business owners.

    A poor work ethic has always been a main cause of poverty, a good work ethic is always valued by employers.

    • #19
  20. livingthehighlife Inactive
    livingthehighlife
    @livingthehighlife

    Bob Laing: In a world where maximizing shareholder value (or grinding out a living as a small business owner) is the primary concern, you should be very careful in hiring people whose history indicates behavioral problems.

    Add in our litigious culture, and business owners are one bad hire away from a lawsuit.

    • #20
  21. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Linked this at my post on TechnoProletarians?, which has spawned a pretty interesting discussion of work and workers.

    • #21
  22. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Bob Laing:Niche businesses that prepare foods with felons are great lessons about the power of redemption, but they are not a model for economic success. People should be judged on a case by case basis. A person who writes bad checks and a serial rapist might both be considered felons, but I’m much more apt to give the first a chance at redemption. THAT said, if I have a third candidate who doesn’t have a felony arrest, all other things equal, I shouldn’t select either of the felons. I would be acting against my own best interest.

    Agreed Bob. Certain types of jobs are hard enough  to hire honest people let alone starting with criminals or should I say ex criminals.  A leopard that changes spots is the exception rather than the rule. One or several employees working in concert can destroy  a small business.

    • #22
  23. MBF Member
    MBF
    @MBF

    I have two close friends that run small business desperate for workers that will show up sober every day. They’re willing to train on the job and start at $14 hour. One is roofing/siding, the other is flooring/carpet. The roofing siding crew can be a lot less strict in hiring felons, as they aren’t inside people’s homes. Most of their crew members have at least some public court record (usually drugs or domestic stuff), but it’s not like they seek out ex criminals. They just can’t get anyone else interested in manual labor for that wage. Come to them with proven skills and they’re willing to pay $20+ /hour. Hearing these stories drains any ounce of sympathy for the “immigrants and free trade took our jobs” crowd.

    • #23
  24. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    I would hope that giving a felon a second chance is different from willfully closing your eyes to the felony.  David Trone, founder of Total Wine, has made his decision to “ban the box” on employment forms a selling point in his campaign for Congress against Mrs. Chris Matthews in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.  As a result, he’s a darling of the ACLU.

    • #24
  25. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    They are doing it. We have programs in our little town, for instance, Have House, that rely on donations to fund help to vets with PTSS, people in recovery, etc. It has grown quite a bit, all through community support. Some of the volunteers are ex-military and help with counseling. It was started by a pastor. There are other examples too.

    http://havenhouse.net/

    This is a big problem here in NW Florida. Small business owners are desperate for good workers, but there are a lot of drug and alcohol issues. The jobs are there and the help is there. However, sometimes the work ethic is not.  The only thing I can think of to change that is better education, mentoring and setting and sticking with standards by small business owners. Many times, bad behavior is ignored because it’s so hard to find people, and that does not give the person a leg up.

    • #25
  26. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    “Unfilled not because of a lack of pay, but a lack of applicants who show-up sober and work until the task is done.

    This is a perennial problem for business owners.”

    And worsening.  I can’t find medical assistants who are willing to do the simple tasks of bringing patients in, taking a history and vitals and doing a medication review.

    • #26
  27. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    I applaud these efforts, as they are taking place in the private economy.

    I draw the line, however, when government wants to bigfoot it, with regulations making it an unlawful  practice even to ask if a job  applicant has any past felony convictions, and even making felons a protected class in the anti-discrimination laws in rental housing.

    • #27
  28. Canadian Cincinnatus Inactive
    Canadian Cincinnatus
    @CanadianCincinnatus

    I have a friend who grew up in a small business that sandblasted and painted bridges in Northern Ontario. Because it was seasonal work, they could effectively only hire students or ex-cons. They found that the ex-cons could handle the rough work conditions better. One of their ex-con labourers even did a 10-year stretch for murder. So my friend’s experiences confirm what TKC said.

    On the other hand, we should not let wishful thinking blind us to some dismal facts. It is simply the case that many people who hit rock bottom stay there until they die. As well, some people are hard-wired from birth to be sociopaths, and these people will spend their entire lives preying on others, if given the opportunity.

    So by all means, do what you can to help your fellow man, but don’t be naive about human nature.

    • #28
  29. Severely Ltd. Inactive
    Severely Ltd.
    @SeverelyLtd

    PHCheese:

    Bob Laing:Niche businesses that prepare foods with felons are great lessons about the power of redemption, but they are not a model for economic success. People should be judged on a case by case basis. A person who writes bad checks and a serial rapist might both be considered felons, but I’m much more apt to give the first a chance at redemption. THAT said, if I have a third candidate who doesn’t have a felony arrest, all other things equal, I shouldn’t select either of the felons…

    Agreed Bob. Certain types of jobs are hard enough to hire honest people let alone starting with criminals or should I say ex criminals. A leopard that changes spots is the exception rather than the rule. One or several employees working in concert can destroy a small business.

    We had businesses where for a couple of decades we hired workers with histories of substance abuse and the results were mixed, because of course some find it easier to reform than others. We had three that were former heroin addicts, one of which was a sales manager that fell back into after many years of abstinence. It’s easy to say that everyone deserves another chance, but given what I know now, it would take very particular circumstances to hire someone for our present small retail store with any kind of history, drugs, drinking, theft, or assault. I can’t even imagine it, to be honest.

    • #29
  30. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Canadian Cincinnatus:I have a friend who grew up in a small business that sandblasted and painted bridges in Northern Ontario. Because it was seasonal work, they could effectively only hire students or ex-cons. They found that the ex-cons could handle the rough work conditions better. One of their ex-con labourers even did a 10-year stretch for murder. So my friend’s experiences confirm what TKC said.

    On the other hand, we should not let wishful thinking blind us to some dismal facts. It is simply the case that many people who hit rock bottom stay there until they die. As well, some people are hard-wired from birth to be sociopaths, and these people will spend their entire lives preying on others, if given the opportunity.

    So by all means, do what you can to help your fellow man, but don’t be naive about human nature.

    It has to be done through an evaluation of each case.  Any attempt by the government to mandate such hiring will end with being forced to hire people you shouldn’t hire.

    It only works if the person has self identified as a screw up and doesn’t want to go back there.  If they are still blaming the system or anything else, it won’t work and is likely to cause problems.

    • #30

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