You are currently viewing Conditions of employment in this bakery: a criminal record

Conditions of employment in this bakery: a criminal record

After 15 years in prison, Eric Satterfield had two work experience options on his resume: pre-prison jobs or prison jobs.

“When you get out of prison, you think everyone is wondering why I went to prison. And that’s not really true,” says Mr. Satterfield. His time in prison did not stigmatize the organization at nonprofit Laughing Bear Bakery, which only hires people with criminal records to help them get a solid footing in the job market. A year at the bakery helped him transition into a job at full time in a manufacturing center.

Why we wrote this

With patience, forgiveness and cookies, a retired prison chaplain empowers people with criminal records to “imagine a new self.”

Being able to “imagine a new me” is key to successful reintegration, says Naomi Sugie, associate professor of criminology, law, and society at the University of California, Irvine. And that requires spaces like the bakery where returning citizens “don’t always have to explain themselves based on their past mistakes,” she says.

Founder Kalen McAllister hatched the idea for Laughing Bear Bakery during a career as a prison chaplain when she realized counseling inside prison walls was only a partial solution . Change was needed on the outside too. When she retired, she explains: “When I left, I said, ‘I’m going to do something to solve this problem. “”

Saint Louis

Five years after working at Farmington Correctional Center, Chaplain Kalen McAllister – “Chap” for short – began to notice a trend. A few weeks before their release, the men walked through the chapel to her white-walled office, sat in a padded chair, and confided in her.

The familiar refrain? “I don’t even want to go out because I won’t be able to find a job.”

Ms McAllister was offering her support but soon realized counseling from within prison walls was only a partial solution. Change was needed on the outside too. When she retired, she saw her open up: “As I walked out, I said, ‘I’m going to do something about this problem.'”

Why we wrote this

With patience, forgiveness and cookies, a retired prison chaplain empowers people with criminal records to “imagine a new self.”

In 2015, Ms. McAllister opened Laughing Bear Bakery in St. Louis, a nonprofit where a criminal record is required to land the job.

For many returning citizens, the stigma of a criminal record means the consequences of a crime are paid long after the sentence has been served. With the click of a mouse, employers can perform a background check, and it’s perfectly legal to consider a criminal record in a hiring decision. A criminal record lasts a lifetime, making getting back to work — and beyond — a difficult journey. At Laughing Bear Bakery, getting out of prison is a new beginning. Where other employers look at ex-convicts and see only the risk of re-offending, Ms. McAllister sees multi-faceted individuals on the path to a new and productive future.

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