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Seventy-seven million Americans — one in three — have a criminal background, and many of them are talented, employable individuals. Afterall, the United States is experiencing low unemployment numbers and companies have spots to fill.

Dave’s Killer Bread® Foundation (DKBF), a non-profit organization, from the makers of Dave’s Killer Bread®, is committed to helping companies nationwide adopt Second Chance Employment. It also advocates for system-level reform of the criminal justice system.

Approximately one-third of the employee-partners at its Milwaukie, Oregon bakery has a criminal background. So does the bread company’s co-founder Dave Dahl, who served 15 years in prison before returning to the family business in 2005.

After his older brother Glenn gave him a second chance, Dahl started working on a new recipe for organic and non-GMO bread. Dave’s Killer Bread debuted at the Portland Farmers Market in 2005 and was an immediate success. It’s now the No. 1 organic bread in the country, with distribution in all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico.

Fresh starts

The company created its foundation five years ago to help other companies implement Second Chance Employment.

“We realized that this was a really powerful, incredible employment philosophy,” says Genevieve Martin, executive director of DKBF.

They believe employment can break the cycles of mass incarceration and recidivism. Through strategic partnerships and a spirit of shared responsibility, the organization wants to be a part of the change.

Martin says at first, the general public didn’t know about, or understand, Second Chance Employment. Many companies liked the idea, but they didn’t know how to put it in practice.

So DKBF provides personalized business coaching and employer advice on Second Chance Employment; they use their national network to identify recruiting partners; and they have a Second Chance Playbook, a collection of videos designed for business leaders and human resource professionals looking to understand and adopt this talent philosophy within their organizations. .

Martin calls Second Chance Employment a “best-kept secret” for employers. DKBF partners with companies, small and large. For example, in 2018, 10 percent of the new hires at financial services firm JPMorgan Chase ­—  about 2,100 people in the United States — had criminal backgrounds. Those new hires work in entry-levels jobs like account servicing and transaction processing.

Up next, the foundation is launching its inaugural “Second Chance Corporate Cohort” program where up to 10 companies participate in second-chance training with three sessions over nine months. Visiting faculty will advise the participating companies on insurance, employment law, human resources training, and more.

Reducing stigma

The bread company shares their Second Chance Employment story on their packaging.

“The more that we proudly talk about it, the more that it helps to humanize the story and break down the stigma,” says brand manager Cristina Watson.

By employing someone with a criminal background, a business provides a chance for that person to build a meaningful life for themselves, their family, and the community.

“There is a fundamental dignity that having a job allows you to have — a reason for being in the community,” says Watson. “Having those things stripped away from you because of something that you did, and you paid your debt to society for, isn’t equitable. Here’s a way that we can make a change; we should do that.”

Positive changes

The focus is on the opportunity for positive changes, not past crimes. 

After 30 years of criminal activity, Mark spent just over six years in prison on numerous charges. He’s been clean for the past eight years. Now he’s a DKB’s café cook.

“I came here with nothing and nobody, and had to restart my life,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of personal things unravel. This? This has been the only thing that didn’t. The people here. They’ve basically been my family and friends. Financially, emotionally.”

Rahsaan’s second chance came after spending 12.5 years in prison. These days he’s an assistant supervisor at DKB. He’s proud to work hard and support his family, including his three kids.

“It feels good to finally be in a position where your work and your attitude speaks for itself. It’s not about your past,” he says.

For those interested in getting started, or who may have any questions, contact DKBF here.

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