Michigan proposes Jobs Court to help non-violent offenders find careers

A new proposed Job Court in Michigan would help non-violent criminal offenders find work.

"This is a partnership between the private sector, the public sector, the criminal justice system – all of us coming together to position people for success," Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said.

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Attorney General Dana Nessel said the proposal would help alleviate backlogs of cases caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It would also help with labor shortages and keep people employed rather than committing crimes.

"We don't want to give people jobs – we want to give them careers," she said.

To participate, offenders would need to plead guilty and complete a year of the program. If they succeed, their records would be cleared. If not, they would go to jail.

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"Hopefully they'll never make it inside of our facility and that's what this program provides for and for our community, it provides safety," said Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington.

The goal is to provide offenders with the services they need to get their lives back on track. This includes mental health services and education.

Patrick Nelson said a similar program, Goodwill's Flip the Script, helped him.

"These guys are mentors that teach you how to mentor and prepare you for everyday situations in life," Nelson said.

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To launch the program, it needs $5.5 million from the Legislature. If that money is allocated, pilot programs will start in Wayne, Genessee, and Marquette counties.

Prosecuting attorneys would consult victims of non-violent offenders then work with their defense attorneys to identify 200 defendants from Wayne County, 150 from Genesee County, and 100 from Marquette County who would enroll in the jobs court program.

"I'm anxious to get started. We need to get started. We have thousands and thousands and thousands of cases that are backlogged," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said.