At the halfway mark of their 2020 session, the Kentucky General Assembly continues to make headway on a number of great criminal justice reforms. Perhaps even more promising is the cultural shift across the business community in the Commonwealth and the growing enthusiasm by business leaders to hire those needing a second chance. Just last week, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce convened hundreds of government and business leaders for a conference on Kentucky’s workforce. The importance of second chance hiring was a prominent theme. Across the state, these businesses have been so successful in their efforts that they are drawing national attention to their second chance business models.

In Lexington, DV8 Kitchen operates as a bakery and restaurant with a specific focus on employing those with a history of incarceration or substance abuse. The restaurant works closely with treatment centers, from which many of its employees are hired. The owners of DV8, Tom and Diane Perez, opened the enterprise because of their own experience in the restaurant industry and Mr. Perez’s former alcohol addiction. In another of their restaurants, they realized they had lost 13 employees to overdose over ten years, half of which were opioid related deaths. They opened DV8 to ensure folks have access to a job as soon as they are clean, but also to provide community, purpose, and job skills to their employees.

Heading east to Hindman, a small town in Eastern Kentucky—an epicenter of the opioid crisis—a group from the Appalachian Artisan Center created an apprentice program called Culture of Recovery. This program teaches participants traditional Appalachian arts, including making dulcimers, mandolins, and guitars. The program is proving successful, with about 94 percent of its participants graduating from drug court. Giving participants something productive to fill their idle time has proven to be a fulfilling means to support their recovery.

About 70 miles north in Louisa, an auto repair shop called Second Chance Auto opened as a part of the Addiction Recovery Care network. The shop combines job training in car detailing and repair with substance abuse treatment, moving individuals into becoming productive members of their communities. The employees find that the work, along with the support of their colleagues, as motivation for success in recovery.

In Louisville, Pastor Barry Washington owns a restaurant called Barry’s Cheesesteaks, where he employs individuals who have been previously incarcerated. Pastor Washington previously was a drug user and dealer himself, and now he is a part of the solution, giving those struggling with substance abuse meaningful work.

Right on Crime celebrates these business leaders. It is an encouragement to the people of the Commonwealth to see businesses stepping up to find ways to drastically improve outcomes for these individuals and their communities, as well. Moreover, we look forward to continuing our work with lawmakers to remove barriers to successful reentry, and supporting policies that encourage second chance hiring.