Michigan’s high unemployment rate, ready access to criminal records and a rising number of employment prohibitions are making it tougher for those with criminal records to find jobs, experts tell Booth Newspapers. “This is as hard as it’s been,” said Will Konyndyk, a counselor who has worked 25 years finding jobs for hard-to-employ people in Grand Rapids. He and others say the job climate is at odds with state efforts to help felons get out of prison and stay out of prison. Even during high unemployment in Michigan in the 1980s, it was easier to get an interview for those with a criminal record. “When you get right down to it, the cheapest thing you can do is help a guy get a job,” he said. “If they’re working, they’re much less likely to have time and inclination to get into criminal activity.”
A Corrections Department study of 173 inmates paroled through the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative from October 2005 through April, found that only 64, or 37 percent, were working at the end of April. Some argue that policies aimed at protecting the public have gone too far. A decade or more of getting tough on crime has “come back to bite us,” said the Rev. Milton Wells, pastor of Open Door Ministries and the community coordinator for the re-entry program in Kalamazoo County.