Jails to Jobs Second Chance Employers Network continues to grow

Frontier Co-op is one of the companies in our Second Chance Employers Network

After receiving a steady stream of calls from employers asking us how to create second chance employment practices, we decided that the best way to help them was to highlight companies that have been successful in this area.

About a year ago we created the Second Chance Employers Network to do just that. So far, we’ve been able to tell the stories of 23 companies and why they decided to implement the practice, how they did it and what they learned in the process.

These companies include small businesses with just a handful of employees to major corporations. Their sectors range from medical and manufacturing to transportation and employment agencies.

We launched the Second Chance Employers Network section of our website in the spring of 2023 having no idea what the response might be. But we have been very pleasantly surprised. The thousands of hits we get every month show us that there’s a great deal of interest in second chance hiring.

We hope your company or organization will be inspired by a few examples of our Second Chance Employers Network “members” and may want to put together your own program. And if you’re a jobseeker, may you be inspired and follow-up with employers that might be of interest to you.

Our Second Chance Employers Network employers are truly diverse

Although all the companies we’ve highlighted on our website have done incredible work, this diverse array of examples proves that no matter what the size or type, a company can create a second chance employment program if they’re motivated. And keep in mind that our network as it appears today is definitely a work in progress. We’re just getting started and expect to add many more second chance employers in the future.

Let us introduce some of our current second chance employers to you:

All Star Labor and Staffing – This employment agency operates as a full-service profit company with a nonprofit mission – to help formerly incarcerated job seekers find work. The founder created the company after volunteering for 10 years at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Oregon’s only prison for women. During that time she saw women returning to prison telling her the main reason was that they couldn’t get a job. So she launched All Star Labor and Staffing.  The company places workers in a variety of positions and industries, including construction, warehousing, medical, landscaping, hospitality, administrative office work and agriculture.

Frontier Co-op – Headquartered in Norway, Iowa, Frontier Co-op sources high-quality herbs, spices and botanicals from around the world and processes and sells them to its 40,000 member stores and organizations. In 2017 the company launched the Breaking Down Barriers to Employment Initiative. This initiative includes an apprenticeship program with local Willis Dady Homeless Services, as well as a van transportation program and a concerted effort to seek out potential employees who have been incarcerated.

Georgia Pacific – A major U.S. corporation, Georgia Pacific employs more than 30,000 people at more than 150 facilities in 33 states. Its brands are household names and include AngelSoft, Brawny, Dixie and Quilted Northern. The company works with nonprofit, agency and work release partners that supply potential employees and often offer wraparound services. About one-third of Georgia Pacific’s work force is second chance employees, who are concentrated in manufacturing, skilled trades and maintenance jobs.

I Have a Bean/Second Chance Coffee – With a full-time staff of five people and a few part-timers, this Wheaton, Ill.- based coffee company roasts about 50,000 lbs. of coffee per year. It hires what the founder describes as “post-prison” people. And part of I Have a Bean’s mission is to help the public realize these employees are just regular people who made a mistake. It does this by offering regular free coffee events that allow customers to get to know the staff and enjoy each other’s company.

Mod Super Fast Pizza – Named by the Nation’s Restaurant News as the fastest growing restaurant chain in America for two years in a row, Mod Pizza has grown from 31 locations in 2014 to more than 500 outlets in 29 states, as well as Canada. Its 10,000+ employees, known as Mod Squad members, include people in reentry and those facing a variety of barriers to employment. Mod served as the pilot for the National Restaurant Educational Foundation’s HOPES (Hospitality Opportunities for People (Re)entering Society initiative), which trains those in reentry to work in the restaurant industry.

RecycleForce – During the past decade and a half, this Indianapolis-based nonprofit business has grown from two workers processing 600,000 pounds of material per year to 30 full-time employees processing  6 million pounds. It recycles everything from computers and printers to refrigerators and microwaves. All employees have been justice system involved. And RecycleForce has a work release program and a 120-day transitional job training program to help those in reentry get their lives back together.

Union Pacific Railroad – This leading railroad company has more than 32,000 employees and routes that cover more than 32,000 miles in 23 states. Union Pacific launched its second chance hiring process as a pilot project with The Manufacturing Institute and took that step because it was having trouble finding employees. The first positions were for train crew, who are responsible for switching the train cars on the ground, but now second chance employees are found in all of the company’s departments.

Please join our Second Chance Employers Network

If your company has been successful in launching a second chance employment program and would like to share your accomplishment, we’d love to include you, as well. Please contact us, and we will be in touch.

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