Hot Chicken Takeover (HCT) is an up-and-coming restaurant in the trendy “Short North” neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. The popular eatery boasts that it has the best “Nashville style” fried chicken and soul food in town, with long communal tables designed to allow patrons to share the experience with others.
From it’s simple beginnings as a small takeout window, HCT has developed a devoted following of people who love spicy chicken and the friendly atmosphere. But as owner Joe DeLoss would attest, the “secret recipe” of his restaurant is much more than the ingredients that go into the food.
As part of its mission, Hot Chicken Takeover seeks to employ those who might be deemed unemployable by other businesses. This includes people that are homeless or who have been recently incarcerated. Over half of the restaurant’s current staff has a criminal record.
In addition to providing employees with a steady income, HCT seeks to enable men and women to better themselves with additional programming like financial coaching, counselling, job training, and wellness benefits.
DeLoss is quick to point out that he is not running a charity. “[My employees] work incredibly hard, serve a tremendous amount of guests, and do it with a smile on their face,” he tells the Columbus Dispatch.
One of these employees is James Hasan. After five separate stints in prison, Hasan had determined that he had to make a change in his life. “Forty-two years old—I got to do something different with myself,” he says in the Dispatch article. “I don’t want my kids to see me in and out of the streets.”
After struggling to find employment with his past record, Hasan expected to be rejected when he offered his application to HCT. Instead, he was hired, and has worked his way up the ladder to fry cook.
“It felt easy to come here,” he says. “I like it here. I love it here.”
Hot Chicken Takeover is but one example of the positive impact formerly incarcerated men and women can have on their community if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, opportunities like those offered by HCT are hard to find for many people with criminal records. They are much more likely to find roadblocks to employment and housing, laws and regulations that prevent them from being good citizens, and a lack of support that is needed to succeed.
The Second Prison Project works to remove these kinds of barriers, eliminating the perpetual punishment these men and women face, even after they have paid the debt for their past actions, and allowing everyone to benefit from the gifts and talents they have to offer. To learn more about the Second Prison Project, and how you can be a part of ending this “second prison” for millions of people, click here.