ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) – A Buckhead business owner is giving convicted felons a second chance at life by investing in their futures.
Chad Dillon, the owner of The Boiler Seafood & Crab Boil, told CBS46 he was watching the popular reality show “Shark Tank” and wanted to bring the concept to the prison system. He wants to help keep inmates from returning to jail.
The latest data from the Georgia Department of Corrections shows more than a quarter of all convicts end up back behind bars within three years.
“I thought, “What way can I help reduce crime and help the community,” said Dillon. “I’ve seen a lot of success.”
Dillon partnered with the Atlanta Reentry Prison and for 13 weeks, met with a group of nine inmates to teach them life, social and business skills. Inmates were tasked with creating and pitching their own business start-ups including logistics, permits, licenses, and costs.
“Some of these guys are really good guys who made one mistake,” Dillon said. “These people still have skills, talent, a lot of knowledge and they’re still creatives. We can’t forget that.”
Dillon originally planned to award the top five winners with $2,000 to use towards starting their businesses. However, he said all nine entries were so good that he also awarded $1,000 to the other four participants. The money will be used towards starting their businesses once they return home to society.
“Even if the business takes a little longer than they thought to start, at least they have a plan,” Dillon said. “This at least gives them motivation.”
Ryan Richard is one of the top five winners. He was released from jail on Wednesday after serving 12 years for an armed robbery he committed when he was 17. Dillon gave him a $2,000 check on Thursday.
“Opportunities like this are a blessing,” Richard said. “I had to look in the mirror one day and take account for my actions and I told myself this is not the person I want to be.”
Richard wants to start a trucking business. He hopes to have at least two trucks in operation in the next five years. He said he plans to pay it forward by hiring convicted felons.
“I’m just ready to put my plan into action,” Richard added. “I believe in reach one, teach one. This just lets me know there are some sincere real people out there.”
Dillon said he plans to continue to mentor the inmates who took part in his inaugural competition. He challenged other business owners to do the same.
“These guys, they are looking for help,” he said. “They are looking for guidance. They are looking for mentors, and if we can get more people like me on board to help mentor these guys, they won’t return to prison.”
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