Brooklyn Park restaurant gives ex-offenders a second chance

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A local restaurant owner says he is trying to give people with criminal records a new chance.

The restaurant is called Fat Chance and owner Ben Dossman is giving people with a troubled past a second chance at life.

In the kitchen of Fat Chance, a Brooklyn Park sandwich shop, you will usually find Stanton Williams whipping up one of the restaurant’s signature subs.

“I’m a cook, I take orders, I clean, whatever needs to be done,” he said. “I came to Minnesota to change...went through a few problems.”

Those problems put Williams in hot water.

“I had a bad temper and I got into a fight a long time ago and hurt a guy,” he said. “Ended up going to prison for it.”

After serving six years, Williams went to school and eventually was connected with Fat Chance where he’s worked now for about a year.

“They really go the extra mile to help people,” he said. “If you want help, they did it for me.”

Assistant Manager Terrance Lynch said that’s unique. “A lot of people don’t get a second chance with things, we give people second and third chances.”

“Some of the employees come with needed life skills so kind of step in the gap and help them in other areas as well,” said Dossman.

Of his nine employees he’s hired since opening the restaurant in 2016, he says four have criminal records.

“It is the ultimate goal - not just criminal records, but having a checkered past in general,” Dossman said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ most recent data from 2016, 65 percent of offenders remain free of felony convictions for three years post-release statewide.

Nationally, the Bureau of Justice Statistics says 68 percent of state prisoners released were re-arrested within three years.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections released the following statement:

Recidivism reduction is an important measure of public safety and is key to the DOC’s mission. Programming in prison is a critical part of preparing offenders to be released back into our communities, and preventing new crime. Whether it be through treatment, cognitive thinking classes, education, or job training, many offenders are committed to change, and return to our communities as productive law abiding citizens.

Dossman said he’s “noticed if someone gets out of prison and gets a job and has a decent place to live their chances of going back are pretty slim. That’s what we try to focus on.”

To help, he allows them to focus on serving food, so they don’t serve more time.