MIDLAND — Gov. Rick Snyder issued an executive order today making it easier for people with criminal backgrounds to earn a second chance at gainful employment. Applicants for state employment and people seeking an occupational license will no longer be disqualified just because they have a criminal record. Also, people enrolled in job training programs while incarcerated will know upfront if their background prevents them from obtaining certain employment, and the state will help them get licensed if they need to.
Removing barriers to employment for people with criminal records — which is a large and growing demographic — benefits the public in multiple ways. Research has shown that employment is a key factor influencing someone’s probability to reoffend. Employed ex-offenders are much less likely to commit new crimes, improving public safety. Further, removing these barriers for ex-offenders may help Michigan employers find the talent they need.
More than 20 percent of Michigan jobs now require a state license, which mandates fees, training, exams and more. The vast majority of these licenses, prior to Gov. Snyder’s executive order, restricted people with criminal backgrounds from working legally in these fields. This disproportionately impacts blue-collar workers and those with trade skills, including roofers, painters, cosmetologists, barbers, security guards and many other jobs in high-demand fields.
“A past mistake should not prevent someone from being able to shampoo hair or put up gutters for a living. But that was the reality,” said Jarrett Skorup, director of marketing and communications at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “This is a great move by Gov. Snyder that will help ex-offenders, job creators and the rest of society.”
As a result of these orders, the Michigan Department of Corrections will ensure that prisoners meet the licensing requirements prior to enrolling in job-training programs, like Vocational Village. As part of this reform, additional trades will be taught at Vocational Village.
Kahryn Riley, director of the Mackinac Center’s criminal justice initiative, sees these changes as transformational for former offenders, and a significant step forward for Michigan in the national effort to get smart on crime.
“Michigan’s government has done a great thing by banning the box for state employment – and it has set a great example.” Riley said. “Our state courts hand out nearly 50,000 felony convictions every year, so it’s incredibly important to ensure that people who have made mistakes can still find work and become contributing members of society. This could also be a game-changer for trades facing labor shortages.”
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