Labor groups rally to help ex-cons find work after time served

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Local labor groups are pushing for change to how ex-cons are treated when they're released from their bit in prison.

They did their time and have been released back into the world. But many ex-cons say they still feel punished long after being released - because they can't get a job.

They say they just want a fair chance. They've done their time and are ready to become contributing members of society. But they're having a tough time find a job.

"I want to be a productive citizen. I want all returning citizens to be a productive citizen and we need to get them to work," Nicholas Buckingham said.

Buckingham served time for armed robbery. Once he completed his sentence, he got out and got a job - but quickly lost it because of his record. A background check revealed his felony conviction. Without a job, he turned to the streets and violated parole.

He went back to prison for a month and a half and says he's now an activist with a degree and a desire to work.

"Since then, I have had the hardest time finding gainful employment. I've been turned away from numerous internships and also from public housing," Buckingham said.

This issue impacts so many people - including Detroit City Councilwoman Janee Ayers. Her father was in prison when she grew up.

"I am the daughter of a multi-felon and a teacher. I spent my weekends going to prison, to visit," Ayers said.

She knows the impact all this can have on families and wants to see parents employed so she's currently working on a fair chance ordinance. Detroit has already banned the conviction history checkbox on public employment applications but now they want companies in the private sector receiving taxbreaks from the city  to do the same.

"Felony should not be your destiny, because your past should not destroy your future," Rev. Louis Forsythe  said.

"We currently incarcerate 44,000 prisoners, (there are) over 72,000 probationers within our state so we have a lot of people who come into our correctional facilities in the state of Michigan," State Rep. Fred Durhal III said.

The state spends $37,000 per prisoner per year. The last thing the cash-strapped state needs is returning citizens to prison.

"We want to rehabilitate and we rehabilitate by providing jobs and resources and getting them on the right track," Kelli Williams with Communications Workers of America said.