Thinking Outside the Box

Employers that have banned the felony box on job applications see workforce rewards.

May 20, 2016
Charlsie Dewey
Maki-Gomez-McKinley-thinking outside the box
Cascade Engineering’s Joe Gomez, Keith Maki and Jahaun McKinley, from left, are supporters of the company’s program hiring returning citizens. Photo by Johnny Quirin

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) In 2014, 10,000 prisoners were paroled in Michigan, and approximately 900 of them returned to Kent County to rebuild their lives.

Upon trying to re-establish themselves in their communities, one of the first hurdles facing former prisoners — who are referred to as “returning citizens” by those doing work in the area of prisoner re-entry — is the felony box on job applications.

For many employers, a checkmark in that box immediately disqualifies a job candidate, regardless of the details of their crime. That leaves returning citizens in the precarious position of not being able to find a job or getting stuck in entry-level positions that often don’t provide a livable wage —and that, in turn, can lead to recidivism.

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