Despite praise for ex-offender program, Whitmer's budget doesn't include funding for Flip the Script

Flip the Script aids about 1,000 ex-offenders in finding work and contributing to society.

But under the governor's new budget proposal, the group's funding isn't included. Without it, the Goodwill sponsored program may be able to help only a fraction of the people it does now.

"Quite honestly, I'd hoped and expected that the amount of support that Governor Whitmer enjoyed from Detroit voters, that this would have found its way into her budget," said Daniel Varner, CEO of Goodwill.

The lack-of-funding news is even more surprising considering just a few days ago, Whitmer praised the group.

"The budget is not done, but I will say that this - I am interested in making sure we get programs like "Flip the Script" so we ensure people get real opportunity for success," said Whitmer during a speech.

Antonio Downer is one of Flip the Script's success stories. As someone who made his way through the initiative, he was released from prison and became a supervisor in an automotive supplies division.

"Goodwill, you know, worked with me and gave me a chance to get my life back on track," said Downer.

From convicted criminal to contributing citizen of society, Downer's experience is emblematic of what can go right when resources find their way into the proper hands. Graduates of Flip the Script not only reduce the financial burden on the state, but become taxpayers under the same government.

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The recidivism rate - or tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend - of Flip the Script is 8 percent, a fraction of the 30 percent rate for non-Flip the Script graduates. Varner said these people are committing fewer crimes and paying more taxes.

"So it's good for our community, and it's good for every taxpayer in the state who doesn't have to pay for folks to go back to prison," he said.

However, with the initiative left out of the state budget, it could miss out on $1.5 million in funding. That would be a first in the last five years.

In a follow-up message, officials in Whitmer's administration said the recommended budget is "the first step in the budget negotiation process - it's not done."

"There are a lot of competing priorities and Flip the Script is something we are open to discussing during continued negotiations," said Tiffany Brown, Whitmer's press secretary.

Goodwill Industries is lobbying the legislature to fund the program, but it's also asking for public support by having people contact their state senators and representatives. You can find the petition here.