Ex-Prisoner’s Popcorn Business Gives Ex-Inmates Job Opportunities in Canada


  • O’Brien, from Canada, initiated a popcorn business called ComeBack Snacks Popcorn.
  • The company employs former inmates to counter the struggle they face to procure jobs after prison.
  • Official reports suggest nearly one million former inmates based in Ontario, while the rise in unemployment stands at 5.7%.
  • Change is envisaged not just in Canada but globally, encouraging employers to give individuals with criminal backgrounds a chance.

Inmates to Employees: An Initiative by O’Brien

O’Brien, at the age of 35, contemplated the difficulties ex-prisoners face in securing work upon hearing about their struggles during her prison term. The stigma related to former inmates often distanced potential employers, so she decided to take action.

Second Chance for Canadians with a Criminal History

O’Brien envisioned providing an opportunity for nearly 3.8 million Canadians with a criminal past. She considered beginning a venture that would primarily hire former prisoners.

She emphatically mentioned, “What is often overlooked is the fact that every individual in prison is a human and requires support. They need belief.”

Launch of ComeBack Snacks Popcorn

With several business ideas in mind, O’Brien eventually chose to begin a popcorn business, renowned in prisons. Thus, ComeBack Snacks Popcorn was launched. Utilizing recipes originating from the prison, she premiered the company in 2020 with the tagline “Popcorn So Good, It’s Criminal.”

Currently, the company employs five ex-prisoners and distributes popcorn through 650 stores in Canada and the United States, representing a small but happily content family.

Hiring Practices and Criminal Records

Statistically, about one million former convicts reside in Ontario, the most populous Canadian province. Employers are obligated to execute background checks; however, the law does not exclude the employment of prior inmates in the regular workforce.

Nevertheless, a report on employment possibilities for individuals with a criminal past, co-authored by Safiyah Husein, a senior policy analyst at John Howard Society of Ontario, revealed an alarming discovery. Approximately 73% of 400 hiring managers across Canada admitted to never employing anyone with a criminal record, while 42% would instantly reject applications from such individuals.

Impact on Unemployment and Labor Shortage

Employment services firm Spotwork’s CEO, Darren Perlman, suggested that employing people with criminal history could solve Canada’s labor shortage, considering the unemployment rate is at 5.7%.

O’Brien reaffirmed her vision of change that extends beyond Canada. She appealed to all employers worldwide to provide opportunities to rehabilitate individuals with a criminal past, thereby strengthening the workforce and the society.

(1 dollar = 1.3497 Canadian dollars)

Source: https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2024-03-02/canadian-ex-inmate-strives-to-end-stigma-through-popcorn-business

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