LANSING — State Representative Harvey Santana(D-Detroit) has sponsored a bill that would help convicted criminals who received parole find jobs upon their release. Although Michigan’s recidivism rate, at 31 percent, is low compared to other states, unemployment among parolees is 78 percent. Santana’s bill is part of a bipartisan package of legislation that would help lower unemployment, thereby lowering recidivism.
“When people have served time in prison and paid their debt to society, they deserve a second chance,” Santana said. “Similar legislation has passed in other states with wide support, and I look forward to similar support for these bills on both sides of the aisle in Michigan.”
The bill package has three items. The first, sponsored by Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Township), would allow the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to issue a certificate of employability to a prisoner eligible for parole. The certificate would be awarded based on criminal record, institutional behavior, and job training and education received in prison.
Santana’s bill would prohibit a licensing board or agency from using a criminal record as the sole reason for determining whether an applicant has “good moral character” as required by current law. Employers who consider a criminal record must also consider the applicant’s certificate of employability.
The final bill, offered by Rep. John Walsh (R-Livonia), codifies the use of certificates of employability in hiring, licensing, etc., and shields employers from negligence claims if they hire an individual with a certificate of employability.
“Michigan’s unemployment rate remains above the national average, and this legislation will help bring that number down,” Santana said. “Not only will we reduce the number of criminals who re-enter the prison system, saving the state money, more people will be gainfully employed, paying taxes and spending money. These bills are a win-win situation.”