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This bakery will hire anyone (grist.org)
373 points by nkurz on Mar 7, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 168 comments



As someone with several drug related felonies on my record, I can do nothing but applaud the efforts of this CEO, although on a different level I wonder if any adult working a minimum wage job isn't living a very bleak existence anyway, and in fact isn't being exploited for having a brain disorder we currently call "addiction"

The problem with people who let drugs seriously affect their life is that...they let drugs seriously affect their lives, and at least from an employment point of view, where what matters is robot-like conformity and compliance, this is just not-to-be tolerated or even risked.

The sad, sad irony of this is that according to very recent studies[1], the very thing that made us addicts is the very prescription that society has deemed our punishment to be. Talk about cruel and unusual.

I wish I could say I don't struggle with relapse, but one of the few things worse then being an addict is being a lying addict.

Being unemployable by most metrics and having to constantly struggle to survive sure doesn't help with that battle.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-...

[edits]


Interesting article, thanks. As a Portuguese, and having been close to someone who was addicted to heroin, I know that besides clinics, we also had houses in the countryside where there were small communities where people trying to recover could stay for a few months, with very regular visits by specialist psychologists helping them. I don't know how effective they were or if they still exist, but it seems to jive with this idea of establishing human connections.


Change of scenery is an important thing when trying to break out of a bad pattern. Novelty is actually processed by a different part of the brain than whatever rut we may be in is.

The book Iconoclast explains that even moving furniture around can put us into a more creative state, because our creativity is activated by novelty.



And getting them out of their "social" situation of hanging out with other addicts. Addicts reinforce each other's habits.


Addicts are very lonely people whom are simply trying to connect with people but have some sort of synaptic wiring issue that prevents them from successfully doing so without the use of powerful pharmaceuticals (or anything that releases dopamine, really) that both create false bonds of dependency and mood-altered states.

That is why research shows over and over that creating new environments and new "friendships" (the cornerstone of AA and NA) is of crucial importance.

It's so hard for "normal" people to see and understand this because (from my personal experiences)...

1. the addict often seems like the life of the party (at least in the beginning of the story) and no one thinks that person is lonely.

2. normal people, for the most part, discover and nurture these connections so automatically that they can't understand how it could feel for it not to work, thus addiction is totally baffling to them.

To me, the crown jewel of Neuroscience would be to come up with a successful treatment to addiction that worked directly on the brain and didn't require the complete overhaul of your life that inpatient and outpatient treatment demand.


This article is garbage. As others have pointed out, the author is a repeat plagiarist [1], and the point that he makes in the article is heavily based around the Rat Park study - one that has struggled to be replicated [2]. The clickbait title doesn't help things either.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Hari [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park


Garbage is probably somewhat strong, but I agree about the title.

I suppose, like so much these days, it all depends on your POV and ingrained confirmation biases whether you believe research about the incorrigibility of addicts or the hope of rescue.

My thoughts on this whole "Shoot the messenger, he's a plagiarist" line of thinking is that we live in a remix society, and certainly in music, producers and artists are given wide leeway to come up with new ways to use old sounds with no repercussions.

I wonder if the ability to take old written content and present it in a fresh, persuasive way shouldn't be given the same respect.


Thank you both for the courage to post this, and for the link to Johann Hari's article. It is a real eye-opener. (If anyone is tempted to skip it because of the HuffPo link, take my word for it, this is well worth reading.)


Don't skip it because it's HuffPo, skip it because it's Johann Hari. He's a plagiarist and a cyber stalker.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Hari


Wow, can the meta-irony of this particular point be any deeper?

Good thing there will always be a job waiting for him at the bakery.

"Following the release of his book, Chasing the Scream, in 2015, Hari gave a number of interviews where he expressed regret for his actions. In order to quell doubts about his reporting, he also released full audio copies of sources he interviewed for his book. In an interview with the Little Atoms podcast, Hari also stated that he would apologise to Nick Cohen and Francis Wheen."[1]

I think the article is exceptionally well-written, personal, and informative, and gave me, as someone intimately involved with all things addiction for 30 years, fresh perspective.

The fact that he seems to be currently deeply in love with an active addict may be motivation behind the piece, but it takes little away from the insights.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Hari

[edits]


Things are significantly more complicated with Hari than "mistake, apology, done". This article recaps the problems and even documents severe problems in his post-apology work.

http://www.jeremy-duns.com/blog/2014/9/7/kdgwxcbsned1rknh0h3...


I'm fine with hiring people who have erred before, if the regret looks real. People make mistakes. They should be able to take a new direction.

But Hari did dishonest reporting for a long time and, as David Allen Green writes, was "smearing other journalists in an on-going systemic manner for years". I will remain suspicious of whatever he does as a reporter.

In a way: his crime was an abuse of words, and I'll be careful whenever he again works with words. If his crime had been abuse of children, I wouldn't mind him working in construction, or even keeping books, but I'd be careful hiring him as schoolteacher.

If he got a job at a bakery, well, I suppose he wouldn't poison anyone, although his work as a reporter was poison.


While we're talking about people who did bad things in the past and got a second chance... How about John Carmack?

> As reported in David Kushner's Masters of Doom, when Carmack was 14, he broke into a school to help a group of kids steal Apple II computers. To gain entry to the building, Carmack concocted a sticky substance of Thermite mixed with Vaseline that melted through the windows. However, an overweight accomplice struggled to get through the hole, and opened the window, setting off a silent alarm and alerting police. John was arrested, and sent for psychiatric evaluation (the report mentions 'no empathy for other human beings' and describes Carmack as 'a brain on legs'). Carmack was then sentenced to a year in a juvenile home.

Carmack's comments (from 1999):

> I knew I wanted to work with computers from a very early age, but there were also a lot of other stereotypical geek aspects to my life growing up - phreaking, hacking (nobody called it "cracking" back then), rockets, bombs, and thermite (sometimes in not-so-smart combinations), sci-fi, comic books, D&D, arcades, etc.

> I was sort of an amoral little jerk when I was young. I was arrogant about being smarter than other people, but unhappy that I wasn't able to spend all my time doing what I wanted. I spent a year in a juvenile home for a first offence after an evaluation by a psychologist went very badly.

> I went to a couple semesters of classes at the University of Missouri (UMKC), taking nothing but CS classes, but it just didn't seem all that worthwhile. In hindsight, I could have gotten more out of it than I did, but I hadn't acquired a really good attitude towards learning from all possible sources yet.

> I dropped-out of college to start programming full time, but trying to do contract programming for the Apple II/IIGS post 1990 was not a good way to make money, and I only wound up with between $1k and $2k a month. Not having enough money is stressful, and I did some things I didn't want to. I wrote a numerology program for a couple hundred bucks one time...

> Softdisk publishing finally convinced me to come down to Shreveport for an interview. I had been doing contract work for Jay Wilbur and Tom Hall, so I knew there were some pretty cool people there, but meeting John Romero and Lane Roath was what convinced me to take the job. Finally meeting a couple sharp programmers that did impressive things and had more experience than I did was great.

> After I took the job at Softdisk, I was happy. I was programming, or reading about programming, or talking about programming, almost every waking hour. It turned out that a $27k salary was enough that I could buy all the books and pizza that I wanted, and I had nice enough computers at work that I didn't feel the need to own more myself (4mb 386-20!).

> I learned a huge amount in a short period of time, and that was probably a turning point for my personality. I could still clearly remember my state of mind when I viewed other people as being ignorant about various things, but after basically doubling my programming skills in the space of six months, I realized how relative it all was. That has been reinforced several additional times over the seven years since then.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Carmack

http://games.slashdot.org/story/99/10/15/1012230/john-carmac...


Journalism and computer programming are fundamentally different pursuits. Computer programming is a perfectly objective activity, the output is totally independent of the work that went into it. Thus, Carmack's work is brilliant, and would remains brilliant despite Carmack being a repentant theif. ReiserFS is still a good filesystem and is still included in the Linux kernel, despite it's author being a convicted murderer.

But journalism is different: the activity is subjective and we are required to trust that the journalist (and their editor and publisher etc) isn't out to mislead us (or, more realistically, that we understand their biases and can compensate for them). Thus, the output is much closer linked to the work that went into it. The journalist was in the room, we weren't. We have to trust that the journalist not only accurately quotes what's being said, but accurately represents the context of it. That means that the personal integrity of the journalist is much more important.

Plenty of lapses of journalists can be trivially forgiven - youthful theft easily among them. But Hari didn't steal a computer as a kid, he messed with one of the most sacred institutions of journalism: the quote. Even worse, he claimed ignorance: forgiving a journalist who so fundamentally misunderstands his own role as a high-integrity purveyor of truth that he thinks it's cool to mess with quotes is a lot more difficult than forgiving theft (not that it's up to any of us to forgive Carmack, we weren't party to his crime).


Yikes, I didn't know that, thanks for pointing it out.

Still, I think it would be a mistake to skip the article because of who wrote it. As I said, it was a real eye-opener for me, and I'm glad I read it.

I'm even glad I bought Hari's book Chasing the Scream. (I didn't even do my usual Kindle free sample, just a one-click purchase on the spot after reading the article, quite unusual for me!)

You did have me worried for a moment, though: do I want to support someone like that?

But he seems to recognize how he screwed up and is trying to make things right, apologizing to the people he mistreated, releasing the audio interviews used in the book, etc.

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jan/02/johann-hari-int...

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/01/26/interview-johann-hari-o...

I too have done some things in the past that I'm ashamed of, and I'm grateful that the people involved forgave me.

Perhaps Hari is a bit like the other people in this discussion and deserves a second chance?


Maybe he deserves a second chance, but he doesn't seem to have changed his ways much.

http://www.jeremy-duns.com/blog/2014/9/7/kdgwxcbsned1rknh0h3...

The last section, "Update", is of particular interest to you, as it relates directly to the audio transcripts from Chasing the Scream.


Weird to see a positive article about the benefits of letting people who have served their time get back into work juxtaposed with your post saying, essentially, Burn him he's a plagiarist.


They are two different things. One is directly related to the job. The other is being a felon for an unrelated reason.

I wouldn't mind someone being a teacher if they got caught with pot 20 years ago. I would mind if they raped a few kids.

The point is that if their crime was related to the job, it's fine not to trust someone to do that same job again. That's not the same as never employing them for anything.


If you read that, it wasn't just plagiarism, he actually made up stories, whole cloth.

That said, I've worked for a factory. Many of the hires on the floor were for people with records of various kinds. It did help the higher-functioning people turn their lives around, which was quite encouraging. But we also had people who did stupid things and got arrested for things like domestic violence charges, which were related to their drug use.


Do you have any hints that he plagiarised this article or do you follow the principle of "misbehave once, be damned forever"?


The irony of you letting a man hang to dry in a post about atonement.

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jan/02/johann-hari-int...

C'mon dude.


What cyber stalking are you talking about? This page only talks about plagiarism and wikipedia vandalism. Making negative edits about people you don't like on wikipedia involves exactly zero stalking. Is information missing here?

And it sounds like the 'plagiarism' was him using quotes he did not personally acquire, which is pretty minor and wouldn't turn me away from reading anything.


Hypothetically, imagine gadders would now edit some public information about you with lies, because you criticized him. Would that not feel a little bit stalky?


So let's say we got in a big argument and then he went to my github profile and called me a poopy head and a bad coder. I would find that obnoxious, I would find it harassment if he kept doing it, I don't think I would find that stalky.


So why should we skip it? Does it make the article invalid?

If he's a liar, I might think differently, but the mistakes you mention seem irrelevant to me.


Why are you judging the merits of an article by the author and not the content?


Because if the subject matter is in a domain that is outside someone's expertise they don't really have a way to judge by the content. It's possible to make really good arguments for things that are simply untrue.

So instead we judge by the author - i.e. is the writer at least trustworthy.


I will certainly agree: there should be more skepticism for such at article by a known untrustworthy author. Does that mean we should immediately dismiss something written by him?

Your advice is good to take in general: don't trust what you read without judging both the credentials of the writer and the content the writer is putting forth. But to dismiss it based only on the author is shortsighted. I see nothing in your reply specifically about the content of the article, does anything else truly matter? Sure, take the author's history and intentions into consideration, but at the end of the day the content is what matters.


yeah, let's not read the article on barriers to employment because of past offenses written by someone who is presumably trying to make it as a writer with a record of criminal offenses.


> I wonder if any adult working a minimum wage job isn't living a very bleak existence anyway, and in fact isn't being exploited for having a brain disorder we currently call "addiction"

Assuming you consider 28 years old to be "adult", I can confirm that there are such adults.


I wonder if a Silicon Valley tech company would care about drug related convictions. I don't think possession/distribution/etc. alone would really be an issue (except if it were extremely recent and potentially ongoing), but clearly "I was high and raped/killed my neighbor" would, and either could arguably be "drug related". "Was an addict and broken into cars to get money for drugs" would be a more interesting corner case; nonviolent property crime. I think "in the past" for sufficiently large values of past might be fine.


Taking "drug convictions" into account is a form of discrimination. If the FDA revoked the licensing of Prozac or the DEA scheduled it tomorrow, suddenly tons of people would be guilty of drug-crimes. It'd criminalize being depressed.

The same is true for the current state of drug laws. We're criminalizing people with anxiety, with existential pain, stress, curiosity, etc.

What's different about stealing cars for money for medications, versus stealing cars for money for bread? Or robbing to afford rent? Are people that steal money for opiates less likely to cause a work incident than people that steal money to fund a kickstarter campaign?

Medical issues should only be taken into account if they're relevant to the job at hand, which, at a tech company, is relatively rare. Otherwise, acceptable job performance should be the only measurement considered as far as medical is concerned.


Discrimination in job applications is perfectly legal outside specifically protected classes in the United States, including under various state laws.

The nationally protected classes are race, sex, pregnancy, religion, national origin, age, veterans status / military service, bankruptcy or bad debts, genetic information, and citizenship status (exclusive of work eligibility).

Under various state laws, there may or may not be additional protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, medical condition, political affiliation or activities, military status, different age limits, familial status, public assistance status, and/or use of "lawful products" (e.g., tobacco, alcohol).

http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/qanda.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employment_discrimination_law_...

Outside of these classes (or within them where the state doesn't recognize the class) it's generally legal to make hire/fire decisions with few limitations.

Given "at will" employment conditions in many states, proving discrimination is generally a case of showing specific evidence that a protected class was material and specifically related to the action. That can be difficult, though not impossible.


Many drug convictions, outside of pure merchants (non-patients) are medical conditions and thus should be protected from discrimination.


One way to think about interviewers ignoring current immoral and unethical laws would be to step back and consider past immoral and unethical laws.

Going back a couple decades, being gay or holding the wrong political beliefs was something of a hiring problem.

Given that "we" forget that technology and fads might change, but people never do, you can safely assume that if being "outed" a couple decades ago eliminated about 95% of employment opportunities, then the equivalent today will eliminate a similar percentage.


> What's different about stealing cars for money for medications, versus stealing cars for money for bread

They are totally different!

Someone stealing for bread, i.e. to survive, will never consider crime if they don't absolutely have to. So they may have committed a crime, but they are not a criminal.

But someone stealing for drugs demonstrate a level of selfishness that does make them a criminal, i.e. someone who does not care about other people. This is something will not change even if they have enough money to buy their drugs. That selfishness does not go away.


But someone stealing for drugs demonstrate a level of selfishness that does make them a criminal

Perhaps you'd like to become acquainted with addiction[1] and substance dependence[2]. They are real issues that people (those who you call criminally selfish) have to deal with, (generally) alone.

Due to societal attitudes towards drug use and the overly harsh treatment of users by the criminal justice system, people suffering from addiction often do not receive the medical and psychological attention they need. In a better world we'd be willing/able to provide that, but we aren't there yet.

People start doing drugs for many different reasons, but some people can't handle their crack. An addict can be a threat to themselves and/or others, not because they are "bad" or "selfish", but because they are mentally ill. Addicts need rehab, not punishment.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addiction [2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substance_dependence


They were selfish to start using the drug. The dangers of drugs are known to all, they can not claim ignorance.

On top of that addiction is no excuse to harm others by stealing or other activity. It might feel absolutely horrible not to have the drug, but it is not necessary in order to live.

Someone who is so consumed by their addiction that they have no self control left, and they steal, is someone who is not employable.

This doesn't mean they should be ignored - it's two different things. People should certainly help them, but at the same time they do not make good employees.


They were selfish to start using the drug. The dangers of drugs are known to all, they can not claim ignorance.

Drug use includes a risk of addiction, not a guarantee. Just like a lot of activities, there is a choice to be made considering the risks involved. For some people, the level of risk is acceptable. Unfortunately, brain chemistry is very complex and users rarely take the time to understand what they are doing to themselves. The result is often an unexpected rollercoaster of self-destruction.

they do not make good employees.

On that point I agree. I'd be willing to look the other way at drug-related charges for a fully recovered junkie, but someone who is in the middle of the recovery process (or possibly hasn't started) would be a no-go.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we need to stop demonizing drug users. Addiction isn't an excuse for criminal behavior, but it shouldn't be a crime or carry so much social stigma.


What if it's necessary drugs, like anti-psychotics? What if they have a physical dependency? What if it's life critical, like a benzodiazepine addiction?


> necessary drugs

I would consider it like bread.

> a physical dependency

Was it their fault in the first place? i.e. did they start using it for a good reason and are now dependent? Or did they start using it because they like how it feels?

> What if it's life critical

Like bread.

You are being a bit too simplistic - the specific details don't matter, what matters is the person's state of mind. Is he stealing because he does not care about the other person, and only about his own enjoyment? Or is he stealing because he has truly no other choice and he feels bad about it?

It's impossible to really know someone else's mind, all you can do is judge based on behavior.


When I still worked for a company and not myself, and was assisting in the hiring process, I was much more inclined to overlook drug-related crimes as I felt then - as now - that these very often should be crimes in the first place. On the other hand, I remember once we had a job application from a recently-released convict (jailed for kidnapping, resisting arrest and assault of the arresting officers). The nature of his crimes, along with the high profile of his case, meant that we replied 'thanks for your interest, but you don't meet our criteria' and binned his application. We didn't want any attention from media, and our clients (many whom of which where schools) would likely not have appreciated our employment of such a person.


* oops, that should read "... very often SHOULD NOT be crimes...".


If they care, one major reason is an employer's liability for everything an employee does.

Perhaps if you could insure your company for each employee, it would be clearer whether you should hire someone and employers would take more well-justified risks on people.


Depends on the company. They will definitely care if you lie about it.


Better not ask than...


It's a bakery, requiring little to no skills, and nothing more than being able to repeat physical activity, and only 35% make it through the program (a 10 month on-the-job job).

I don't think this is the "success" story it's being made to be.


Sure it is.

The most obvious metric of its "success" is the simple conditional 35% > 0%.

And while I agree, the motivation behind the CEO's thinking is based on bottom-line thinking, and not do-gooder motivation, its still nice to see SOME outside-the-box thinking on this issue.


"Brady also said that it was immaterial whether or not open hiring was a better way to do business. His goal is to make sure his business also helps the community and helps people out of poverty. With that goal, there’s an imperative to try new things. “There’s a lot of recognition that the things people have been doing aren’t working,” he said."


When you pay a low wage for a job that literally anyone of the street can do after about 10-30 minutes of training, you can hire and fire all day long, it will not affect your bottom line.

So it is true that it's immaterial to his business - whether it's open hire, or day laborer, or something else.

But I'm not sure how exactly this method helps anyone? Because most of the employees are gone after 10 months.

Does this mean they've made enough money to move into a better job?

Or does this just reinforce the stereotypes about convicts, drug addicts, and the mentally ill?


>only 35% make it through the program. That is better than not having the program at all and having the addicts stay where they are. I think it is a success, because helping one addict is successful and now that person is a beacon of light. Other addicts will see that they are doing something productive, they got clean, and that maybe, they can get clean and get a job too. I think there's more to it than just who made it through the program.


Programs aren't measured solely by absolute success rate. They are also measured by success rate relative to alternative approaches to the same problem that could be enabled by the same resources.

Which is to say "35% > 0%" sounds good, but would wilt in the presence of "35% < 45%". Might I suggest a different set of evaluation criteria?


that's like saying that a company that only hires 10% of those it interviews is a failure. they have a waiting list of applicants, which allows them to set their quality bar high enough to reject the bottom 65% of applicants. the only difference is here the "interview" is a 10-month paid apprenticeship, while at most companies it's a 2 or 3-day unpaid blitz of tests.


> that's like saying that a company that only hires 10% of those it interviews is a failure

> the only difference is here the "interview" is a 10-month paid apprenticeship

That's a major difference, which makes the analogy fail - since the two thing being compared are nothing like each other.


Plenty of companies have quarter to year-long contract-to-hire paths for all new hires. Are all of these companies also failures? This is how all skilled work was for centuries, if not millennia. Were all businesses and guilds back then failures as well?

Either way you seem to be missing the point-- being able to choose who you retain vs. who you fire is a factor of applicant volume, not some objective measure of the quality of a company/hiring practices. Being able to reject more candidates if anything means you are better, as you have enough applicants who want to work there that you can be selective.


So basically what you are saying is with the way this bakery hires/fires and the way Microsoft and Google hires/fires - while there might be some slight differences between the two - at the end, the overall effect is the same.

And that what's really happening here with this no-interview no-skills-asked-for open-hire policy (and its high turnover rate), is that they are keeping the cream of the crop and shedding the wheat from the chaff.

It could be.


The difference is interviews reject people based on what's on the paper, and in-the-interview tests are usually limited enough due to time constraints that you can't get a good picture of a persons proficiency.

If you give anyone the chance to show their worth in a 10 month program, that's sure as hell a lot less discriminatory and IMHO equates to a more qualitative hire.

Sure you can only keep the amount of people you have openings for (in this case 35%), but you are very certain you hire the person you want working for you, and not the person with the shiniest resume.


It's certainly not all bad. Giving people who would otherwise have no job prospects the experience of coming to work every day, getting used to the routine and socialization of a work environment and evaluating their ability to be a part of that system is valuable. Even if it only lasts a few months, it's much better than nothing. Especially given that the only alternative for most of them is a blanket rejection based on something they did years ago, often without an interview.

It would be better for all of society if programs like this were more common.


The lack of second chances we give in America to some of our most unfortunate means that even non-violent offenses can have lifelong consequences. It's shameful.


That's how I think about a lot of sentencing. Take sex offenders. After they are let out of prison, they have to register as a sex offender, can only live in certain areas, etc., which is equivalent to a life sentence.

We can debate the kind of punishment sex offenders deserve (and don't judge too quickly - urinating in public, statutory rape of a minor 6 months younger than yourself, visiting a prostitute, and even sexting if you are a minor all qualify as sex offenses. [0])

But my point is, if we are going to punish someone for life, let's be open and clear about it. Never being able to escape the year you spent in prison 25 years ago is torturous. It's no wonder recidivism is so high in the US.

[0] http://www.businessinsider.com/surprising-things-that-could-...


> That's how I think about a lot of sentencing. Take sex offenders. After they are let out of prison, they have to register as a sex offender, can only live in certain areas, etc., which is equivalent to a life sentence.

The truth appears to be that the general public is OK with this kind of discrimination. Commit a crime, go to jail, get marked for life. It sucks. Make a dumb mistake when you're 17, and you're screwed.

We need to start doing a better job separating the people we're mad at vs. the people we're scared of. Scaling back drug arrests (especially marijuana) is a step in the right direction.


> It's no wonder recidivism is so high in the US.

To those who make very comfortable livings in the US legal system, that is not a bug, it's a designed feature.

Oh, and oddly enough, they happen to be the same people whom make the sentencing laws.


I realize it's fun to paint lawyers with the same brush, but let's be clear here: prosecutors are the ones gunning after constant guilty convictions, and the Roberts Supreme Court has stripped even the most basic ways to challenge their abuses.


Right...they sure are, and I know from direct experience.

However, paid defense lawyers sure get a nice dividend from these recidivists.

Cops get the jobs, status, and power they seek from arresting them.

The prison industrial complex owes it's entire business model to them (as first-timers rarely get state prison time), and the last time I checked, DOC was the largest state budget item for CA and FL (I'll admit to maybe being a little off here)

Need I go on?


Agreed, the fact that we even talk about a "business model" for incarceration is horrific. Indeed much of NY state is economically dependent on corrections, it's ugly.

Still, lawyers aren't getting rich defending the masses of underprivileged felons filling our prisons. Defending these folks is a pretty honorable task.



Read Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow" for cite after cite. My copy is lent out to a friend and the internet isn't bringing up specific cases. Excellent, irrefutable and seriously depressing book.


This isn't about 'second chances'. Employers are picky because they can afford to be.

They will (mostly) always favor Ivy over state school grads, clean record vs. felon, good credit risk vs. applicant that declared bankruptcy ...and so on.

As low economic growth continues, this is only going to get worse. How many middle-aged people do you see working at Target/Wal-Mart now vs. 15 years ago? If you're not highly skilled with a clean record, things are going to be awfully tough for you.

This isn't 'right' or 'wrong', it's just reality.


> This isn't 'right' or 'wrong', it's just reality.

Government-supported reality. You can say that this is okay, but please do not make it look like this is just the way it is: The government could disallow access to all felony records (probably with an exemption for police) and even (if it wanted) provide people with a fake background story for the time they were in prison. Discrimination can only be based on things someone else knows, if the government didn't provide the information, how could the employers be "picky"?


> The government could disallow access to all felony records (probably with an exemption for police)

So instead of searching government records to find out if you have been convicted of a felony when you apply to work for me, I use Google to find a newspaper report of your conviction. Not as reliable, but will still probably turn up most applicants with serious felony convictions.

If we are in one of the 40 state that does not prohibit employers from running credit checks on applicants (or if we are in one of those states but the job is one for which there is commonly an exception that allows credit checks, such as jobs in banking) [1], then I can find addresses of banks and loan providers you have used, and possibly more addresses, giving me geographical areas you have probably been in. I can do searches of the local newspapers there, which would be more likely to cover any less serious felony convictions.

Same goes for the locations of any past employers on your resume.

The internet greatly increased the difficulty of leaving your past behind. Even if the primary record (like the government record of your conviction and sentence) is blocked, you leave plenty of breadcrumbs on your way to the present, and the internet preserves them.

[1] http://www.esrcheck.com/Articles/States-with-Laws-Regulating...


I give you that with very high motivation you can find out anything about anyone, more or less. I still think that the count of employers who would use such measures is miniscule compared to the count of employers who check felony records (because it's easy).

Additionally, according to this paper(1) around 8.6% of people have a felony conviction in the US. I have a hard time believing that all - or even most - of this felonies get reported by a newspaper/Google, so even for very noisy employers this seems to be a small risk (yes, if you are the "Slaughterer of <some town>" people will probably find you on Google even without a public felony record).

All else given: Start with removing access to felony convictions, then remove access to credit information and go from there. I didn't say it was easy, but at the moment the government (in the US) seems to do its best to make the life of people who have been convicted of a felony very hard.

(1) http://paa2011.princeton.edu/papers/111687


Each company might not go through that on their own, but it will only be a matter of time until companies are started up whose business model is doing just that.

For $49.95 we will find any past convictions that any of your new hires might have!


If you are a big enough company, hiding those illegal discrimination practices becomes harder.


> The government could disallow access to all felony records (probably with an exemption for police) and even (if it wanted) provide people with a fake background story for the time they were in prison. Discrimination can only be based on things someone else knows, if the government didn't provide the information, how could the employers be "picky"?

No.

We have this system because that is what people want. Maybe not you, but clearly the majority.

Employers can be legally responsible for crimes their employees commit.

If you employ someone who has been found guilty of a sexual assault crime and hire them to work at a carnival where they assault someone, you will be sued.

You don't have to like it, but the reality is that the US is a country where the majority of the public wants to be able to know when someone committed a serious crime.


> We have this system because that is what people want. Maybe not you, but clearly the majority.

Laws and regulations are usually designed to protect the minority. Our country would have made very little social progress if we only enacted reforms that the majority wanted.


I don't disagree with you, but, it is going to take a lot work to convince the US public that convicted felons are a minority group worth protecting.


Employers can't afford to be picky anymore. The unemployment number is now 5.5% and we've had a year of 250k+ jobs added per month. If you want to use anecdotes about Walmart, even they have been forced to increase their wages to retain talent recently.

The axe against ex-cons is an ingrained bias that hurts competitiveness. It is an unfortunate 'reality' that it is a bias that is tolerated in America today.


I wouldn't get too excited about that unemployment number. Only ~63% of Americans are even trying to work and a lot of those that are, are under employed.

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/ali-meyer/628-labor-force-pa...

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-06/americans-not-labor...


1) Underemployment is counted in the U-6 measure which has also trended down significantly this year.

2) The workforce participation rate number is meaningless unless you put it into context. How many people would be in the labor force that aren't currently? Is the drop because there was a lot of people retired early after losing their jobs or is it because a lot of young people gave up looking for work?

The economic improvement is undeniable. I would find better reading material then right-wing and conspiracy theorist "news" outlets.


U-6 is meaningless in context. Its the number of people working part time who would theoretically like full time, plus folks who claim to want a job but haven't actually applied for a job (which includes jobs for which there are simply no more openings in the field, like the stereotypical "factory moved to china" company town).

It has absolutely nothing to do with the modern definition of underemployment as education majors working as waitresses or CS majors working helpdesks or similar examples of "I was trained for a totally different field paying four times as much, or I was trained to be my bosses bosses boss, but here I am instead with a paycheck lower than some current high school students"

"The economic improvement is undeniable."

Where? Everyone seems agreed its the case for propaganda reasons, although its invariably described as "far away from here" for all personal values of "here". With the usual meaningless weird exceptions for ivy league grads of CS programs in Manhattan and SV that we all know about etc etc.


Yeah, it has gotten slightly better but been a 7 year grind.

For #2, you forgot the ones that just ran out of unemployment benefits.

It's the numbers, not the spin.


The underemployment figure will always remain high for a while. Normail college degrees aren't worth what they used to be. My dev group was mostly econ and science majors.


You lose any credibility when your first link is to a partisan whackjob site like cnsnews. Not that zerogedge is any better.


> The axe against ex-cons is an ingrained bias that hurts competitiveness. It is an unfortunate 'reality' that it is a bias that is tolerated in America today.

I agree. I think it is the misperception that these people are risky hires. I believe employers are very nervous about liability and simply disregard anyone that may pose a potential risk (bad credit, arrest record).


The real reason is that companies don't want to implement the systems required to hire a more diverse workforce. Their success depends on having an extremely narrow band of aptitudes.

Greyston works because they make no assumptions about the type of person they receive. Because of that, they need systems surrounding each individual to ensure they're successful at all costs. And they have them.

The latter can be far more effective, but requires a broad humanistic approach that very few people, businesses, or cultures in the world have. The chance of transformation is extremely low, and the costs extremely high, so the resistance is nearly insurmountable, companies take the traditional (chaotic) approach, and we suffer for it.


I think the cost has some influence over employers making a decision to hire an ex-con. If a store can hire someone for minimum wage without any conviction records, why would they hire someone with conviction records when they can't pay any lower than the minimum wage?


You're assuming that someone with a conviction is worse than someone without. One point in the article is that you don't know! The person who has no conviction might not have been caught.

Look at the sociopaths and murderers who sometimes have millions or billions, and are in control of thousands of jobs. They're just smarter about getting away with things.

Furthermore, you suggest that if only we didn't have those strangling minimum wage laws, businesses would hire convicts for less than minimum wage. But sticking ex-cons into wage slavery is exactly the opposite of what the business described wants! They want to maximize their positive impact on their community, not just get out the most from their employees for the least investment.


>why would they hire someone with conviction records when they can't pay any lower than the minimum wage?

Even at the lowest level, not all employees are equally productive. And even at the lowest level, there's something to be said for "loyalty" - for the employee genuinely trying to act in the best interest of the company.

Money is just one way these sorts of behaviors can be incented.

I like to give the example of the choice of hiring a citizen vs. hiring a H1B worker.

Even if the company does pay them the same as a citizen, the employer has rather more leverage over the H1B, as if the H1B gets fired, they've got two weeks to find another employer that can sponsor their visa, or to get their shit together and get out of the country.

There's the positive side of that, too; If you take a person that has never been given a chance and give them a chance, well, there's a chance they will feel grateful, and attempt to return the favor... whereas if you hire someone who gets five or six phone calls from recruiters every day? You probably aren't going to get as much gratitude from that person.


You're assuming that a conviction record is the only variable. Chances are, you're not going to have 2 applicants who are otherwise identical save for a felony conviction (the fact that one of them has a felony conviction almost guarantees there's probably a lot of other differences between them as well).


felony conviction almost guarantees there's probably a lot of other differences

Do you have some statistics you'd like to share? Otherwise this seems like the exact bias that silently justifies relegating felons to sub-citizenship.


I wasn't implying that the differences were negative, only that it's probably a fair assumption that the life experience of someone incarcerated is going to be different from someone who never has been.


well it is not like government doesn't have entry level jobs it could apprentice the recently paroled into. From janitorial to grounds maintenance to even becoming a fireman or similar first responder.

I do note that this business in the article is not really subject to costly losses from theft. There are likely others of similar nature where this can work.

Lastly, back on the government angle. There isn't any reason to not develop programs that start in prison to guide people into jobs with private employers who do not high skilled workers. From wage and transportation assistance there is opportunity there. It won't come free, but is has to be many times cheaper.

I wonder how many felons would vanish off the rolls if all marijuana convictions were pardoned?


Here's an article about someone caught with 4 pounds[1] of cannabis in his car, in Colorado, before cannabis was legal.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/altered_stat...

The system is blatantly racist. It's kind of weird that Americans tolerate the waste of money and the obvious racism.

http://nytimes.com/2014/07/29/opinion/high-time-the-injustic...

> Only about 6 percent of marijuana cases lead to a felony conviction;


Probably not as many that should, because the vast majority of marijuana convictions are misdemeanors.


If you find this story fascinating (and you should) I highly recommend reading the book written by the founder of Greyston Bakery, Bernie Glassman. It's called "Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master's Lessons in Living a Life That Matters." It's extremely good, goes over all of the logical reasoning and humanistic basis for the decisions he made, and makes a ton of sense.

Yep, this wonderfully human organization came from a Zen master, and its foundations lie in practical Zen and all of the wonderful philosophies behind it.

Isn't it inspiring to think that the success of a business could have as much to do with the human ties and emotional connections, as it does individuals, skills, and resources? It is inspiring because it's true, and there's some core of each of us that knows that even in a corporate world.

The quality philosophies of W. Edwards Deming were equally appealing to Japanese companies, for many of the same reasons. Deming realized that the success of a company and especially the production of quality products was systemic, controllable, and inseparably human. If you enjoy this idea, read more about Deming as well.


Look at how proud the employees look in the second photo.

Some would generalize, and say that people who look like them, or who have criminal history, don't really want to work. But they do want to work, are employed, and their sense of dignity is palpable.

This is a really uplifting story. Nice to read some good news for a change.


As someone with a bad history -- when I was 17-18; 6 years ago -- this makes me so happy. I'm really fortunate when it comes to employment and work, and I know it's not like this for many other people who have ink on their paper.

I didn't run a malicious drug enterprise, have a wicked meth addiction, kill anyone, or sell my Adderall. Instead, I found my way into a bank's computer system and some financial card records. Some people are cautious with this, personally and professionally, so I explain to them what <really> happened and how it happened and why it happened. If they choose to not accept me for the mistake I _made_, then I remind myself that they're probably not worth my time anyway. If they choose to work with me... I do all I can to change their mind about people in a situation similar to mine.

If there was a silver lining, most would say that my criminal history got me a few gigs relating to fraud prevention and loss. But in my eyes, I think it's that I was able to change the minds of a few people who would have otherwise passed me off for no good - or so I would like to believe.


Interesting, quote that stood out:"Someone without an arrest may simply be a person who has never gotten caught".

That only 40% of business owners would consider hiring a ex-criminal also makes one wonder how many employers in general tend to lump all ex-cons in the same basket when assessing potential business risk (e.g. serial murderer vs thief/drug dealer, 1x vs multiple offender, etc).


Or, quite likely: has been caught but given multiple chances.

Look at the news out of Ferguson, MO, and particularly Tanesi Coates story on systematic corruption and focused arrests and prosecution of minorities / poor:

"The Gangsters of Ferguson" http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/The-Gang...

The "focus on revenue" was almost wholly a focus on black people as revenue. Black people in Ferguson were twice as likely to be searched during a stop, twice as likely to receive a citation when stopped, and twice as likely to be arrested during the stop, and yet were 26 percent less likely to be found with contraband. Black people were more likely to see a single incident turn into multiple citations. The disparity in outcomes remained "even after regression analysis is used to control for non-race-based variables."


And keep in mind that 40% SAY they will hire. As seen in polls about racism (even anonymous polls) the actual number is probably a lot lower.


Though that's probably mitigated to an extent by many employers not bothering to check.


I'm wondering how insurance works here - will your legal insurance cover you if you hire those convicted of crimes?

If you want to play the game of capitalism well, ie win more of the profit, then you can't let humanity encroach on that. For better or worse.


In case any is wondering, I looked at the comments under that article and saw the stats:

According to IPCH's Spring 2014 Uncensored Magazine, 35% of open hires make it through Greyston Bakery's apprenticeship program.

Source| http://www.icphusa.org/filelibrary/ICPH_UNCENSORED%205.1_Spr...


Interesting stat... How many would make it if they screened like normal business? That's the more interesting one. Low-paid jobs have always had retention problems and the apprenticeship lasts 11 months.


The inability of convicted felons to find work is a huge contributor to recidivism. When you can't find work, it makes it that much easier to fall back into a life of crime. If we really cared about offering a path to redemption, we would revisit our policies on felony records, maintaining sex offender lists, and placing restrictions on felons ability to vote. Unfortunately prisons are quite profitable (not to mention racist), so the system has been rigged to make it easier for people to fall back to crime that to reintegrate into society.


I think this is awesome. The routine and self respect of getting up and going to a job every morning is something people trying to re-integrate back into society really need. Not to mention money to buy things.

But I do have a story to relate. I was a construction project manager in my early 30's. We did land reclamation in disturbed areas like mines. We had a large project reclaiming a mine in Arizona. The company I worked for hired lots of former convicts without discrimination, and fired them just about as quickly and also without discrimination. One of the water truck drivers had a cousin who had killed some people in his teens and had just gotten out of prison. The guy was I think late 20's. He was living with his aunt and uncle. We had him out on the job staying at a motel with the rest of the crew for a few months. He was a bit odd, but he did OK work. When the job was over, we didn't need the big crew anymore and he was laid off. About a month later he killed the aunt and uncle he was staying with and went right back to prison.

So even though this is a good program and I fully approve and think we need more programs like this.... there are qualifiers. Recently violent people may need more help or supervision after release, before they are ready to enter a workforce.


I'm increasingly of the opinion that this open-hire practice could give businesses a competitive advantage. With the US having 5% of the world's population but incarcerating 25% of the world's prisoners, we've got a surplus of those deemed unemployable due to past convictions. A person with past convictions will generally be more loyal to the company that hired him vs. someone who isn't systemically punished by the job market. If hiring felons with competitive wages means having a more devoted workforce, then those businesses willing to sidestep punitive screenings might just come out ahead.


>A person with past convictions will generally be more loyal to the company that hired him //

The risk factor is that they won't, that they're not really reformed, that if they robbed in the past then ripping off your office will seem a good option (or letting a friend know how to do it without getting caught, etc.).

Any evidence to back up your claim? It would be lovely to think that this is true.

FWIW I'm for applying grace, but not necessarily being naive as to the idea that it will always be repaid with loyalty rather than strife.


As an offset to that risk, giving your employees more individualised attention than many companies want to give entry-level/minimum-wage employees would likely be a necessity.


As an immigrant to the US from Europe, one of the worst aspects of US culture is how it treats the unfortunate. People are all too willing to inflict severe judgement and punishment on others (presumably because it makes them feel morally upright).

Poor? Fuck you, your fault. Addict? Fuck you, your fault. No, it does not matter that you have cleaned your act.

This country is psychopathic. Unfortunately, that also makes it a great place to earn money, and so here I am.


Why did the moderators change the title from "Felons, addicts, immigrants: This bakery will hire anyone"?


I would assume the moderator disagreed with the premise of lumping those three categories of people together, or that somehow being an addict is as bad as a felon, or vice versa. Really the offensive part is lumping immigrants in there. Additionally, it's sort of a click-bait title because they hire anyone regardless of their background, they aren't specifically seeking these people out.


It seems to me a large amount of titles are edited, usually for the worse.

I understand some more click-bait titles getting changed (though I don't usually agree), but some edits, like this one, are seemingly without reason.


I think some of this applies to tech hiring as well. There's only so much accuracy a tech interview can have, yet so much weight is given to it. In the end one person who's rejected at Google may end up at Dropbox, and would all the interview hand-waving have been necessary? I'd love to see studies if more intensive interview processes actually produce better quality hires.


This is the real moral of this story.

How much of a person's effectiveness in a workforce is due to environmental factors, and how much is individual?

Now, for every factor you believe is individual, is there proof, or is it an assumption?

Now even further, for every factor you still believe is individual, can you imagine a system which would solve the problem in a generic way?

Given that, would an organization that assumed systemic solutions be more successful than one that assumes individual solutions?

The answer is yes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming


I think more employers would do this if firing was easier.

It's perhaps counterintuitive that making firing cheap, easy, and without large liabilities could reduce our unemployment rate substantially. We should reduce the risk of employers taking a chance on people.


In the US at least, firing is really easy. "any hiring is presumed to be 'at will'; that is, the employer is free to discharge individuals 'for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all,' and the employee is equally free to quit, strike, or otherwise cease work."

Managers are people. I'd imagine there's a fair amount of guilt and shame around firing someone. I also think managers underestimate the damage done by crappy employees, and overestimate the difficulty in replacing people.

Less charitably, people given the power to hire and fire are likely selected for doing what they're told rather than doing what's best for business, so they're probably kinda spineless.


That's true right up until you get sued, then suddenly firing becomes extremely expensive.

Of course, sometimes employers should be sued! So it's a hard nut to crack.


Eh … German labor law, for example, while quite strict when it comes to firing long-term employees, has several mechanisms in place that would make this easily possible with new hires. Lawmakers of course have long recognized that to spur companies to hire new people they have to give them a way out when they notice it doesn't work out during the first couple months.

First, it's possible to time limit an employment contract, e.g. to one year. After that one year the employment is automatically terminated. It is not possible to string time limited contract after time limited contract (if there isn't a reason for the time limit, e.g. another employee has to take care of his kids so there is an urgent need for someone to fill in, it's limited to two years, after which your contract is unlimited), but for new employees it's a tool that can be – and in practice is – used.

Furthermore the (up to) first six months can be a testing period (the law allows it) with severely shortened requirements to giving notice (minimum two weeks from both sides). During this time people can be fired pretty much at will.


This might help, but it's still completely bizarre that you can't fire someone for any reason.

An employee does not have a "right" to a job. You do work you get paid, it's transactional. It's not "your" job - it belongs to your employer.


> An employee does not have a "right" to a job.

... says you.

Someone else might say that a human being has the right to realize his potential in an activity and be allowed to sustain himself and his family out of such activity -- which in practice means there is such a thing as "the right to have a job". There is a lot of philosophic and economic literature on the subject; several nation states even wrote it in their Constitution.

I know we tend to forget, but the XXI century came after the XX and the XIX; those were times when the best minds would think and write about the world around them, rather than looking for ways to trick people into clicking ads.


> Someone else might say that a human being has the right to realize his potential in an activity

You do realize that you saying "we should force this other person to hire someone so that he can realize his potential"?

Why is that other person (the employer) the sacrifice here?


Because of where original capital came from, and where it should go in the future.

You should check out a few XVII/XIX-century European philosophers like Rousseau, Proudhon etc.


You are still stuck in the past were to start a business you need a lot of capital. It's not like that anymore. Most business these days are about services - you need an idea, not capital.


If that's the case, what is VC for? hey, it's right in the name!

You still need capital. Maybe not upfront, but you will need it to survive and scale up. VCs currently act as a "poor man's wealth redistribution" mechanism, funneling capital to bright young things that might not otherwise get access to it.


> Someone else might say that a human being has the right to realize his potential in an activity and be allowed to sustain himself and his family out of such activity

So... I have a right to sustain myself and my family by picking my nose?


The nature of the activity in question is debatable, usually it's formulated in terms of something useful to the community, but that's beside the point. The point is the origin of capital versus its destination from now on.


Well, some people do not see jobs as purely transactional …

For me employers clearly have a responsibility to take care of their employees. They are not robots, they are people and they have to be treated as such. It‘s an ethical question.


Two points: first, there's an inherently unequal balance of power in the employment relationship, and it favors the employer. This has been recognized going back to Adam Smith if not before, quote from An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations below.

Second: the "right" to a job (or not) exists (or doesn't) because that's how the relationship's been defined in law. Law to which, again, employers have an unequal access vis a vis employees. And such relationships aren't recognized in other contexts. If you bring a child into the world, you cannot shirk your obligations to that child (unless you ensure, through adoption, etc., that they're otherwise met). It's quite possible to envision a regime in which employers do assume a responsibility for their employees.

On Smith:

"What are the common wages of labour, depends everywhere upon the contract usually made between those two parties, whose interests are by no means the same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little, as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter in order to lower, the wages of labour.

"It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms. The masters, being fewer in number, can combine much more easily: and the law, besides, authorises, or at least does not prohibit, their combinations, while it prohibits those of the workmen. We have no acts of parliament against combining to lower the price of work, but many against combining to raise it. In all such disputes, the masters can hold out much longer. A landlord, a farmer, a master manufacturer, or merchant, though they did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year or two upon the stocks, which they have already acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scarce any a year, without employment. In the long run, the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate.

"We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform, combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals."

Book I, Chapter IV, "Of the Wages of Labour"

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3300


> It's quite possible to envision a regime in which employers do assume a responsibility for their employees.

You are essentially advocating for a form of serf-hood where the person will always be taken care of, but they can never advance.

You also seem to have this idea in mind that business owners are rich landowners. The reality is far from that. Most business constantly run right on the edge of failure. The reason for that is competition - anyone who tries to earn more is squeezed out by others.

No one wants to go back to the old days where you have the worker and the master and a worker can never become a master. Which is essentially the world you are describing.

But the flip side of this ability to advance is that each person has to be responsible for themself - their employer is no longer their patron.

We have made progress in the last 200 years since Adam Smith. Workers can advance now - all they need is a good idea. You don't need tons of capital like before.


"You are essentially advocating..."

No. I am not.

The rest of your comments are similarly utterly groundless.


On a side note, firing an employee in Italy is excruciatingly hard and, as a consequence, it makes for a lower job growth. As the say goes, "It’s easier for me to get rid of my wife than to fire an employee”.

> "Article 18 of the Labor Code, passed in 1970, mandates that after a short probationary period, an employee fired from a company with 15 or more employees can bring a lawsuit challenging the dismissal. If the suit is successful, as is often the case, the employer is forced to rehire the worker and pay back wages and social insurance contributions, as well as a large fine." http://goo.gl/EE9P5e


In practice this has been long sidestepped by abusing short-term contracts, which are renewed every year and are not protected by such clause. So in practice, for the last 20 years or so, it's actually been much easier to fire people in Italy than in most other European countries (as long as they were recent hires). That didn't really help job growth though.


It is our individual and societal lizard brain that drives our puritan style shying away from "fallen" the way it was reacting toward lepers for centuries and millennia. It takes an intelligent effort to overcome it.


Did anybody else find the third to last paragraph a little odd?

> As I never tire of pointing out, environmental progress depends on social progress. When people are desperately poor they have no choice but to pillage the commons — to cut down forests, or turn to crime. When those people find the means to support themselves with dignity, forests are protected and high-crime areas turn into healthy, walkable neighborhoods.

They cut down forests? Is that really a thing people do when they can't support themselves?


Grist is an environmental site. Cutting down forests is talking about deforestation, especially of the rain forest.

In that context yes, poor farmers deforest an area; they sell the timber and try to use the land for farming.


> They cut down forests? Is that really a thing people do when they can't support themselves?

In region like Brazil and Indonesia I guess.


Congrats to this bakery, and the felons who are happy with their job. As to someone who worked as a Baker; I can honestly state the job was one of the worst jobs I have ever had--and I have had more than a bakers dozen x 2. The Bakery I worked at couldn't keep employees. The hours were horrid. I remember having to be there at 4:30 a.am. The wage was not a livable wage, unless you were living with family members. And two guys out of the 10 of us working there committed suicide. I'll name the Bakery because the original owner was such a Jerk; it was Marin Bagel Factory. This was in the ninties--maybe working in a bakery has changed, but any bakery owner should be glad they have any employees that show up. Sorry, but I think back at that Rat hole and cringe.


I have long suspected that for software developers, not bakers, you could hire off the street after a very brief interview and then do a combination of training and auditioning for the work. My belief is this would be both cheaper and more effective than all the money spent in the traditional process. The one caveat is that teams would have to be willing to work at 2 or 3 times their optimal size until the culling was done.

This is an experiment that really needs to be done. Google and the rest of the gang are beating the living hell out of "tell me everybody else you know that's cool" -- there's got to be some opportunities at the other end of the spectrum.


This relates to the hiring post tptacek wrote: "Over the years, Brady has come to suspect that the traditional metrics for determining who will be a good employee are flawed. Someone without an arrest may simply be a person who has never gotten caught."

I'm guessing that you can find better people this way, felony or not by providing an on boarding process with the open expectation that not succeeding there means you're not going to continue with the company.


"Someone without an arrest may simply be a person who has never gotten caught."

That argument is like a religious apologetic. Lack of evidence doesn't produce a positive argument for anything. On the other hand past criminal behavior is one of the best predictors of future criminal behavior. I completely agree with your own statement though.


As I commented above, see the direct documented evidence out of Ferguson, MO regards arrest and conviction rates for blacks vs. whites.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9164772


There's a place in LA called Homeboy Industries with a similar model. This page might be of interest since it is less about the profitability from a business standpoint and more about the benefit to the individuals they hire: http://www.homeboyindustries.org/why-we-do-it/.


I especially like the point about criminal records not labelling criminals... just the ones who have been caught.

I've met plenty of people with criminal records who are in fact extremely capable employees, and many criminals who have just not yet been caught.

... not to mention that drug addiction is an excellent motivator for making money. :P


tl;dr -> Despite my doubts, Brady makes an interesting argument for open hiring and the social duties of an employer in traditional businesses. Here's the meat of the article:

> “Low-wage workers tend to have a fair amount of turnover — if you make investments in a workforce it’s very difficult to judge if they are going to stay,” Brady said. “So companies try to make as low an investment as possible — and that means they are doing very little to break the chain of poverty.”

Greyston takes the opposite approach.

“Rather than spending money on interviews and background checks, we are spending it on training and development,” he said.

New workers go through an intensive training period and a 10-month apprenticeship. People who aren’t pulling their weight get fired. But there are plenty of workers who do just fine, Brady said.

EDIT: If you downvote, at least write down why.


I worked a minimum wage cashier job for a convenience store that had 3 rounds of interviews. During the 2nd interview I had to sit there while the hr manager called each of my references and verified info. I was not expecting this and one of my refs was on a family vacation in Puerto Rico. This ended up being a gigantic hassle and afterwards he told me that he wouldn't be a reference anymore.

Anyway, I couldn't believe the amount of crap I had to go through to get a minimum wage job for some extra money.


Sorry you had to go through that. 3 rounds for a cashier job is crazy; it wasted the time and money of that bad manager, as well as each one of the applicants.

Country wise, multiple interviews for no-skill jobs seem an economy sinkhole.


As I understand it, cashier is a low-skill job with high trust requirements (since they work directly with money).


I suspect the ROI on training is also much higher than it is on interviews and screening (at least for these sorts of entry-level positions).

That's less about social duty, and more about spending money efficiently.


There's no such thing as a purely selfless act. That said, they could still only hire people with no criminal record. Don't be too quick to dismiss the good they're doing, which yes, has its own rewards (like say, free press).


I was hoping for interviews with some of the workers that were photographed. It'd be interesting to hear their opinions about their job and employer, and learn more about their experience going through the apprenticeship program.


I visited this Bakery twice - once to potentially buy bulk, another time as part of a business case study. All the employees, atleast the ones I observed working the floor, were all happy and smiling. Good for them.


What about sociopaths?


They work in lower Manhattan, not Yonkers.


They're in management.


do they mean illegal immigrants? I was not aware of any place in the US that made policy to not hire immigrants...


"No Irish Need Apply"

Oh, you mean current policy.


Respectfully, I don't think immigrants belong in a list including felons and addicts. Can't we just get along?


Unlawful entry into the US can be a felony in some circumstances. The list isn't conflating them morally or something, it's just saying that each entry is a group that typically has issues finding proper employment.

edit: given the ambiguous nature of the headline, maybe you were referring to immigrants as a whole and not simply people who migrated here illegally. In that case I agree with you, but given the context of the article I think they meant to refer to illegal immigrants. This, of course, doesn't make much sense because there are penalties for hiring illegal immigrants. The article hardly mentions immigrants, and it isn't clear which category they refer to. I don't think there is a broad assumption that immigrants on the whole are unemployable, as the article claims.

I'd like to see some clarification from Grist.


Why do felons and addicts belong on the same list?


Why do felons belong on a list?


It's a list of groups of people who are traditionally ignored by most companies, but are hired by this one. If Harvard grads were traditionally unemployable, but employed by this bakery, they would also be on the list along with felons, immigrants and addicts.


But I was responding to someone arguing we shouldn't put addicts and felons in the same list.


OK, I suppose you're right - both lists are very noisy with little signal. I just meant to point out that addicts aren't fundamentally criminal.


>addicts aren't fundamentally criminal

I think you have your ranking backwards. Having committed a crime means you screwed up. Being an addict means a life-destroying drive that never truly goes away.


Because that same lack of empathy for other people, together with a lack of self control also affects other parts of their life. If that's the kind of person they are then people have a right to now that and judge them for it, because they are likely to do it again.

It doesn't mean never hire them, but it does mean don't put them in a position where they have a larger ability to hurt others.

Obviously some crimes are of the "stupid teen" variety, and other motivations - those should be categorized differently.


Logically they should not. After all the whole point of the sentence is that what they owe society is payed so they are clean.




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