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An Illinois coffee company helps former prisoners find work

Words by Tess Becker

One thing is universal among all former felons – and that's that they face discrimination after serving their sentence.

Companies like Dave’s Killer Bread and Ben and Jerry’s have made headlines for their programs helping former felons find work, and a coffee company in Illinois is another on that list. 

I Have a Bean is a coffee company, and in the same way they have patience and care for the coffee they make, they have for the former felons that come their way.

The founder of the company, Pete Leonard, didn’t start drinking coffee until he was 40. Soon after falling in love with it and starting to make his own coffee, his brother-in-law was arrested.

His brother-in-law had previously worked with Pete writing software but after coming out of jail, his continued employment would have affected the health insurance he used for his employees, with the company outright threatening to drop them. That’s when Pete saw the deck was stacked against former felons.

“I knew someone and cared for someone that had been to prison, and now I see how maybe society is not going to be treating him so nicely,” Pete told Patch. “He’d done his time, he’d paid for his crime, but that didn’t seem to matter.”

And with that in mind, he got to work helping formerly incarcerated people find a place that would hire them. 

In 2007, Pete hired his first employee, an ex-felon, at I Have a Bean. Over the years, he’s employed around 60 post-prison men and women, and the company has gone from selling bags of roasted coffee to neighbors to now selling bulk coffee to local businesses. They’ve even landed a gig selling to a local college. 

“This is the thing I was put on the planet to do,” Pete said. “This business with these people. If I'm being called to do this, there has to be a way to do this.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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