CINCINNATI — Brian Frawley started working for JBM Packaging in Lebanon just 12 days after being released from prison last June and couldn’t help but feel nervous.
On that first day, he said, he wondered if he could succeed in manufacturing — a field that was new to him — and if he would be accepted.
“I walked through that door, and every worry was cast aside,” said Frawley, 47, who spent three years in prison in Columbus. “I’ve never been more welcomed at any company I worked for. Through the programs that JBM offers, it gave me the hope. And I knew that it was going to be OK.”
JBM is looking to give that hope to many more people at its new location in Cincinnati’s Queensgate neighborhood, where it held a ribbon-cutting Tuesday. The family-owned manufacturing company hires people with criminal records after they have served their time, and JBM’s Fair Chance Program connects those employees with the resources they need to rebuild their lives.
“Anybody that can live our core values and help make JBM better are welcome to join our team,” said Marcus Sheanshang, JBM’s president and CEO. “We are just very focused on Fair Chance team members because it’s certainly, they’ve got a spot in our heart to help be part of … helping turn their lives around.”
JBM chose to expand into the city, Sheanshang said, because the location is near more plentiful housing options and offers easier access to public transportation and services available through CityLink Center and other local nonprofits.
“The move closer to the urban core I think will really amplify what we’re doing with the Fair Chance team members,” he said.
Regaining trust and respect
JBM currently employs 40 people who were formerly incarcerated. They make up about 25% of the company’s workforce. The company’s goal is to have hired 500 Fair Chance employees by 2029, Sheanshang said.
JBM offers Fair Chance employees help to purchase cars and advice on budgeting and saving money. The company’s change coach is available to help employees overcome hurdles that are preventing them from achieving their goals.
The company launched operations in Queensgate in July and has about 12 employees there so far. Sheanshang said he wants to hire dozens more over the next 18 months as JBM expands its business to include the insertion of products into the environmentally friendly packaging the company produces.
That line of business will result in the creation of more entry-level jobs that require fewer skills, he said, where people right out of prison can get started at JBM as they work their way up the company’s ranks.
Frawley started as a machine operator, he said, and within nine months was promoted to his current role as a quality assurance auditor.
“Before I started at JBM and during my incarceration and even what led me up to what I did, I lost two priceless values – trust and respect – in my actions,” Frawley said. “I was determined to get those back, and I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. And coming into JBM, I feel like I have gained those back with the company.”
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on problems we need to address. Poverty is an important focus for Lucy and for WCPO 9. To reach Lucy, email email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.