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Whitmer, Nessel pitch $5.5M criminal justice reform to fill jobs

Attorney General Dana Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pitched a proposal to help Michiganders accused of low-level, nonviolent offenses obtain good-paying jobs to reduce recidivism and help businesses find workers.

The Jobs Court proposal was unveiled at Goodwill Flip the Script North End Career Center in Detroit. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II was also present during the announcement.

The proposal is part of Whitmer’s MI Safe Communities framework, which aims to spend $5.5 million to create a Jobs Court and a pilot program to give up to 450 eligible low-level, nonviolent defendants in Wayne, Genesee, and Marquette Counties an opportunity to obtain gainful employment.

Jobs Court is an innovative program that checks all of the boxes: it’s smart on crime, reduces the burden on our criminal justice system, puts offenders on a permanent path to success, helps our local businesses, and makes our communities safer,” Nessel said in a statement. “I am grateful to Governor Whitmer for including my proposal as part of her MI Safe Communities framework and I look forward to working with the Legislature and our local law enforcement partners on this groundbreaking new initiative.”

Eligible Jobs Court participants would be matched with employers to work a good-paying job with benefits, opportunities, and training to learn transferable career skills.

The Jobs Court proposal we unveiled today will make a crucial difference for Michiganders, their families, and communities,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Jobs Court will help address the backlog in our court system, fill job openings across the state, grow our economy, and connect those in need with critical resources. I’m thankful for the hard work of Attorney General Nessel in putting this proposal together and look forward to working with the legislature to get it done.”

Jobs Court participants could use social services, such as mental healthcare, transportation to and from work, and access social workers. Participants would be monitored for one year and be required to maintain frequent and open lines of communication with the employer and Michigan services to ensure program compliance.

If lawmakers launch the program, prosecutors would have the option to dismiss charges against Jobs Court participants who complete the program.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement supports the idea.

I know Jobs Court is a winning idea because the proposal builds on the super successful model of Michigan’s 200 problem-solving courts,” Clement said in a statement. “When Jobs Court becomes a reality, Michigan will take another big step forward in helping courts become community resources and places of healing and transformation for our neighbors in need. I am honored and thankful to the Attorney General for the opportunity to work on this project and look forward to visiting Jobs Court and congratulating the first graduates.”

Despite a slowly recovering economy, Michigan businesses are struggling to find workers. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Job Court could help both problems.

Jobs can be the answer to many of society’s ills. Jobs create opportunity. Jobs create hope. Jobs create growth. Jobs create stability. A common dominator to success, even in the criminal justice system is a good job,” Worthy said in a statement. “For certain lower-level crimes, instead of jail or prison, you get a job. In Wayne County this will be a 200-defendant pilot. Stay in the job for a year, or whatever period of time that a judge proscribes, and my office will dismiss your case. This is yet another first-of-its-kind and innovative project where I am honored to be working with Attorney General Nessel.”

This article was originally posted on Whitmer, Nessel pitch $5.5M criminal justice reform to fill jobs

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