New program encourages hiring people with criminal records, Lexington restaurant already on it

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A new program by the Kentucky Chamber is encouraging businesses to hire people with a criminal record, but one Lexington restaurant owner says that’s nothing new.

Josanne’s Homestyle Southern Kitchen in Lexington opened its doors in January 2019. Since then, Co-Owner Bobby Webb says it’s remained not only open to customers, but also employees with a not so perfect past.

“It’s something that I believe in and I always believed in giving somebody a second chance,” says Webb.

He says since he opened, he hasn’t shied away from hiring people with a criminal record. Webb says committing a crime doesn’t define you for the rest of your life, and the best way to move on is to get to work.

“They got some meaning to their life, and one of the best things to do you feel like you got a job, you gotta get up,” says Webb. “You’re motivated to do something else.”

Webb says he’s happy to hear the state is encouraging others to do what he’s always believed in as a way to bring attention to what the Kentucky Chamber calls the state’s “growing prison population.”

Webb says growing up in Lexington’s East End, he feels he could’ve been at risk of committing a crime, and if he had, he would want the same treatment.

Employee Lloyd Carter says he was in jail for 13 years on a robbery charge, and he’s thankful for the job he’s had now for 8 months.

“I ain’t planning on going anywhere because it’s all love in here,” says Carter. “They done showed me how to do everything that I didn’t know how to do.”

By everything he means making a variety of southern style food, such as fried chicken, sweet potatoes and macaroni, all of which he says is all made fresh daily.

Carter says it’s hard to find a job with a record, and without this one, the past 8 months would’ve looked a lot different.

“I’d probably be on the streets,” Carter says.  “I mean ‘cuz by me being a convicted felon on a robbery charge ain’t nobody looking at me ‘cuz I’m a Black man with gold in my mouth with a robbery charge on my jacket.”

Webb says Carter is a great worker and didn’t even know what he had been convicted of.

Webb says more employers need to look at the formerly incarcerated for who they are – people.

“They made a mistake in life,” says Webb. “If they’re down, don’t keep them down. They want to have a productive life with a productive livelihood. They got themselves to take care of and sometimes they have family members, but don’t shut the doors on them.”

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