Once a high school honor student, Amanda Hall made a series of bad decisions that landed her in state prison.
“When I got to prison, I felt hopeless and devastated,” she recalls. “I knew I had messed up, and I made the decision to turn my life around.”
After serving her sentence, Hall had a lot of fear and uncertainty around her release. That’s when she applied for a job with our company, JBM Packaging, in Cincinnati, Ohio. We hired her through our Fair Chance Program, which makes career opportunities and support systems available to formerly incarcerated individuals.
With the help of our Fair Chance program, Hall worked through some of the common barriers to re-entry that many others experience after serving their sentence. She secured housing, a reliable vehicle to get to and from work, and access to tools to help her stay on her path of personal health and wellness, such as membership to the local YMCA. She also received one-on-one coaching from our Change Coach, who helped her set personal goals and stay accountable.
Now, almost three years following her release from prison, Hall works in our human resources department as the Talent Acquisition and Training Specialist. In this role, she recruits new Fair Chance team members. She also has a great partner, a beautiful daughter, and the “dream life” she’d always imagined for herself.
A hiring program with purpose.
Since 2016, our Fair Chance Program has helped drive our company’s purpose. It has also helped us grow by identifying a largely untapped labor source during a time when many manufacturing companies struggle to find employees. With more than a quarter of our team hired through the Fair Chance program, we’ve uncovered “hidden gem” employees who have become invaluable assets to our team, while also attracting other recruits and customers who want to work with a purpose-driven organization.
The investment of both time and money has been key to the program’s success. With the support of a strong network of local organizations and agencies, we have helped more than 150 individuals re-enter society — many of whom are overcoming drug or alcohol addictions. And while some Fair Chance employees move onto other jobs beyond our company, the program helps to provide a solution to a significant issue impacting communities everywhere.
5 key lessons to ensure success.
We’ve learned a lot in the years since we started the Fair Chance program, including these five tips to foster success.
1. Vet candidates — and their records. At JBM, we’ve found that candidates who have been the best fit are non-violent offenders who have demonstrated a commitment to changing their lives.
2. Support the whole person, not just the worker. During re-entry, people need support with services like housing, transportation, and financial advice to be successful. Additionally, they need holistic coaching to help learn a new way to live. A coaching environment is key to help individuals gain the confidence to make new and better choices.
3. Lead with your head, not your heart. Unfortunately, not every candidate will be a good fit. When it becomes apparent that the employer wants the relationship to work more than the candidate, it’s time to make the split.
4. Fully integrate the program into the corporate culture. If it’s just a one-off effort for a single department, the program won’t likely succeed. Getting buy-in from top management is essential to ensure a welcoming, supportive environment for Fair Chance team members.
5. Don’t expect members to navigate re-entry alone. Pairing Fair Chance team members with others in the program helps build confidence and create community with other people who understand what they’re experiencing. A healthy community and authentic relationships are crucial to recovery and success.
Here’s proof. In addition to Amanda Hall, meet three other JBM team members in the slideshow and hear their inspiring stories.