Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

January 25, 2014

Another View: Give felons a chance to work

Give felons a chance to work

Those convicted of felonies often face difficulties finding work after being released from prison. The unfortunate result is that many return to a life of crime. A package of three bills in the Michigan Legislature has been crafted to improve the employment opportunities available to state prison parolees.

The current figures aren't good. According to the Pew Center on the States ... one in three Michigan parolees commits a crime that sends them back to prison. Also, of those who are out of prison, about 75 percent are unemployed.

House Bills 5216-5218 attack these problems on two fronts.

Bill 5216, whose primary sponsor is Rep. Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, and Bill 5218, sponsored by Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit, focus on improving a prisoner's behavior while behind bars and developing the skills needed to adjust to freedom.

But (prisoners) often find it hard to use those skills because employers are afraid to hire them.

Santana's proposal would allow inmates who show an inclination for working and staying out of trouble to earn a certificate of employability, which would be given to them when they are released and could be shown to prospective employers.

"What good is it to put people in prison, have them pick up skills at taxpayer's expense but then they can't use them when they get out," Santana said.

Kesto added "we're working in Michigan to get everyone back to work. We're seeing Michigan coming back. With these bills, we're removing barriers to felons and giving them a chance to be successful and contributing members of society."

A third measure, Bill 5217 sponsored by Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, helps employers get past the issue of liability for hiring an ex-convict.

Currently, if a parolee commits another crime while on the job, that individual's boss could be sued.

Text Only