*Dave’s Killer Breads routinely hires felons. The irony in that can’t be missed. The story behind it shouldn’t be.
In 2005, the Portland-based company’s namesake and co-founder Dave Dahl and his brother Glenn came together to work in the bakery their parents had started years earlier. Dave had come to the company straight out of a 15 year prison stint. Despite his past problems with the law, which after a number of years resurfaced two years ago when he was arrested for behaving erratically and running into police cars during a subsequent chase, his brother gave him a second chance and rehired him. That decision prompted the company to make second chances in hiring ex-offenders central to its hiring practices.
It’s an admirable decision and corporate priority, and one that should resonate in the black community. According to the NAACP, African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States, and African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. No other factor plays a bigger role in whether an offender returns to prison than their ability to find a job once they’re release. According to the administrative office of the U.S. Courts, half of the federal prisoners released who had not found employment during their supervised release committed a new crime or returned to prison.
So it’s not an understatement to say that Dave’s Killer Bread, which specializes in organic, whole-grain products, is ahead of a hiring curve that needs to be followed by a wide swath of the business community. We all also need to get behind Dave’s Killer Bread!
Dave’s says that one in three of it’s employees, at every level of the company, has a criminal past, largely felony convictions. The company launched a foundation last summer that hopes to help other companies interested in moving in this direction to do so. Later this week, the foundation is holding the company’s second annual Second Chance Summit, where attendees from the corporate and non-profit sectors will discuss best practices for employing ex-convicts.
“We feel employers are missing out on amazing human potential,” Genevieve Martin, executive director of the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation, told the Huffington Post. “Through seeing them do well and seeing them be successful at turning their lives around rather than being branded as criminals for the rest of their lives, we saw an opportunity and feel a duty to start talking about this now.”
“A lot of businesses are interested in this but have that fear,” Martin continued. “They’re scared about saying they’re interested. One of the real concerns is, ‘What will my customers or clients say about me doing this?’ But one of the things we offer is our example. This hasn’t held us back, and I think it’s made our brand much, much stronger than it would have been without it.”
One of this week’s summit’s most powerful components will be a testimonial panel featuring ex-offenders who are having success working at Dave’s Killer Bread and other companies. Additionally, the foundation’s website features 13 employee testimonials.
“This is a national problem where we as employers have to step up,” Martin said.