Proposed Law Would Allow MDOC to Hire Felons

Bill opens another avenue to former offenders seeking employment

People who commit crimes should be punished. But in most cases, the punishment shouldn’t hang over the offender’s head for the rest of his life. The Legislature has made progress on a bill amending the law that prohibits felons from working for the Department of Corrections. The Corrections Code currently forbids the department from employing anyone who has a felony conviction or felony charges pending. The bill, sponsored by Dave Pagel, R-Berrien Springs, would change that. It would remove the blanket prohibition and require the department to establish a policy for hiring some ex-offenders.

The bill has passed the House with nearly unanimous support and has received favorable treatment in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate should pass the bill and send it on to Gov. Rick Snyder for final approval.

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This proposed legislation would not require the department to hire people with felony records or charges. It would simply set up a procedure for making those hiring decisions possible. The bill requires that the hiring policy include an extensive background check and the written approval of the department director for each hire; if the legislation passes, the final policy may be even more stringent.

The Senate has already introduced and passed broad reforms to the criminal justice system in Michigan this year. The conversation around those reforms confirmed the bipartisan commitment to ensuring that our state protects public safety while maximizing the number of productive people in our communities. The governor also reiterated his commitment to effective criminal justice and offender re-entry policies, noting that employment is key to helping offenders reintegrate successfully into society.

Moreover, this proposal is in keeping with a recurring theme in Michigan criminal justice reform: solving problems. Liberals and conservatives agree that our justice system must do more than warehouse people in prisons. It must also focus on rehabilitation and creating long-term solutions that enable offenders to get themselves back on track. This has resulted in the department starting to train prisoners in high-demand trades and issue certificates of employability to help them find work when they re-enter society. Both data and intuition confirm that being able to work is a key to successful reintegration.

When people with a criminal record reform themselves, it isn’t just good for them. It’s good for all of us. This bill is one way to make that more likely.

Related Articles:

Senate Proposes Broad Criminal Justice Reforms

Some Proposals for Criminal Justice Reform in the Legislature

Sweeping Criminal Justice Reforms For Michigan

Wasting No Time on Criminal Justice Reform

Bipartisanship on Criminal Justice Reform Continues to Grow