Would you hire someone with a criminal record?
As the ongoing violence in Surrey heats up – it’s prompted new questions about how to tackle crime.
This afternoon, Lynda Steele spoke with two women who say the best way to get criminals off the street… is to get them on the job.
Listen: Lynda Steele talks with the women of Fitness Foods, who say ex cons can make great staff
Erica Brown is the founder and co-owner of Fitness Foods, a Vancouver organic meal delivery service… and an employer who’s more than happy to take on staff with a criminal past.
Brown says it started when she worked as a cleaner and she was asked to help a friend of a friend, a young woman just leaving jail without any options; she took her on as a partner and never looked back.
“Super smart girl, she’d just made some really poor choices and she regrets them, and she just needed some employment.”
She says she’s gone through her own dark times, fighting addiction and supporting a child on minimum wage, and can understand what leads people to take the wrong path… and why they deserve a second chance.
Turning it around
Kelly Ferguson, a manager with Fitness Foods says since they’ve started hiring people with records, they’ve seen plenty of success stories, like Aliyah – a young mother who came out of jail and has since gone on to provide for her daughter and now speaks at Be The Change conferences about starting over.
“I would say that anybody is capable of surprising you. And hard workers can come from any past. Maybe somebody who’s handing in a resume they may not have a criminal record, but they have a past as well. And just because somebody has a criminal record, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad person or they’re going to be doing inappropriate things.”
Brown says they had one employee who was a skilled book keeper before going to prison, but couldn’t find work in the field after. But after a year with Fitness Foods, other employers were willing to take a second look.
She admits its not always easy – sometimes it can take a long time for people to re-socialize. One of her employees was behind bars from age 18-40.
Breaking the cycle
Brown says beyond the compassionate side of giving people a second chance there can be a huge social impact: cutting down on street crime.
“If they come out of prison, and they can’t get employment anywhere they need to survive. And what are they going to do? They’re going to turn around and go right back to the same thing, the only thing they knew in the past.”
It’s a sentiment Ferguson echoes.
“There’s somebody who gets out of jail, they may start being the one in charge of a gang for instance. Now if they’re not on the street selling drugs, but they actually have gainful employment, they’re not going to be looking for these 17 year olds running around surrey causing havoc because they’re going to be working.”