Inmates get a second chance

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)- Two mothers spend many hours of their day working at Memory Foam Liquidators in Topeka and like the rest of their coworkers--they served time behind bars.

"You know people make mistakes in life," says Janelle Vance.

A criminal conviction often times makes it difficult to find a job.

"It would have been really hard to find something," says Jennifer. Keylon.

"Because a lot of employers do look at that or they toss your application or don't even look at it," says Janelle.

But, CEO of Memory Foam Liquidators, Chris Farmer, takes a different approach.

"There are certain companies that do look at what type of felonies it is, or look at what the person has done, but we don't really look at that as a factor," says Farmer.

Farmer employs former inmates who served jail time at Shawnee County Jail and Topeka Correctional Facility.

"It's less judgmental. You never really know where someone comes from," says Jennifer, "you realize you can provide. There's life after mistakes."

Farmer says at first many of his employees had trouble finding a ride to work. To decrease turnover, Janelle picks up 30 people every shift and Farmer helps take them back home. They use 1 van with 15 seats and make two trips.

"And you realize, they are just people like you and me, and you know it's something you don't expect to realize because you're really judging them before you even see them," says Farmer.

The job includes benefits like paid vacation and paid time off. Its helped Janelle and Jennifer provide for their families.

"This job has given people an opportunity to feel better about themselves," says Janelle.

"You're still human like everyone else and it does give you self worth that you can rise above the past," says Jennifer.

The “Ban the Box” or “Fair Chance Initiative” is being adopted across the United States by local and state governments by taking the question of criminal history off of the job application. In July, Topeka adopted this initiative.