The Wednesday Job Club in Pontiac, Mi., is designed to provide parolees with tips on finding jobs, help them prepare for interviews, even touch up resumes. The Detroit News says it is part of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative, which — depending on whom you talk to — is either a helping hand or promises more than it delivers for ex-convicts trying to blend back into society. The initiative began in 2005 at eight pilot sites, partnering with local organizations to help parolees obtain medical or mental health treatment, get help with substance abuse problems, pursue a college degree, and — perhaps most important — find gainful employment.
The re-entry program, which has a $56.7 million budget this year, has been expanded to 18 sites across the state and serves 13,516 former inmates, or 60.7 percent of the current parole population. Before the program was created, one in two parolees returned to prison within two years, according to corrections department spokesman Russell Marlan. Now — 20,000 parolees later — that’s been reduced to one in three. “There is no question it is having an impact,” Marlan said. “We are shrinking the prison system and seeing fewer prisoners return.” Still, there are some who say the programs do little for them. They confide using public assistance debit cards good for purchases to buy food for strangers to obtain cash.