Utah bill would encourage employers to hire people with criminal records

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate unanimously passed a bill that would encourage employers to give convicted felons a second chance.

SB95 would ensure that companies cannot be prosecuted simply for hiring a criminal – there must be a motive – and would apply to industries such as automotive, construction, culinary arts, manufacturing, oil, gas or mining and transportation.

At Flourish Bakery, they follow a recipe that helps people who have just been released from prison get back on their feet.

Aaron Barney gets up early to prepare food at Flourish Bakery.

He is halfway through a year of apprenticeship where he is paid, to build a career. Something he would never have imagined.

“I was in jail for aggravated assault, drug possession,” Barney said.

At Flourish, people like Barney have the chance to recover from their past mistakes.

“You have to be ready to change your life, your thoughts, the people you hang out with,” he said.

Aimee Altiver, executive director of Flourish Bakery, said that by removing background barriers, ex-convicts can find work and businesses can benefit.

“They are grateful to have the opportunity to earn a living and have a job,” she said. “And they work harder than anyone else.”

They advocate for their graduates who have found employment at Harmon’s and Deer Valley Ski Resort.

“Eighty-five percent of our individuals complete their long-term recovery and 100% don’t reoffend, which means going back to prison,” Altiver said.

Barney said it was a daily process to stay clean and stay out of trouble.

“It’s a helping hand, not a handout,” he said.

Sen. Derrin Owens, R-Fountain Green, sponsored the bill. Last week in the Senate, he thanked Barney and the dozen other former inmates who had the audacity to acknowledge their past mistakes and offer hope to those still incarcerated.