Prison parolee work certificate approved by House

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Former prisoners on parole may more easily find a job if they have a state-issued employability certificate created by legislation the Michigan House passed Tuesday.

The House sent three bills to the Senate, two of which had unanimous support. The first would allow the Michigan Department of Corrections to issue a "certificate of employability" to a parolee who completes a training course and doesn't have a significant misconduct record. Another bill requires that the certificate be considered if a hiring board or agency were also taking the parolee's criminal history into account.

"This legislation will help reduce the 78 percent unemployment rate among Michigan prison parolees, and will be a positive influence on the lives of qualified parolees who have paid their debt to society and have a chance to contribute to Michigan's turnaround," bill sponsor Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, said. "This will also keep Michigan families safer as these qualified parolees go to work instead of returning to crime."

The third bill passed the Republican-controlled House 65-45, mostly along party lines, and would provide legal protections and immunity for employers who hire parolees with the certificates.

"The primary factor is just to get people jobs. We want them trained, and we have to give the employer some comfort that they're going to be protected if they hire somebody," bill sponsor Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, said. "If this encourages somebody to hire a (former) prisoner, then all the better."

The certificate would be valid for four years unless revoked by the department, and would be issued along with records detailing misconduct and whether the prisoner obtained an educational degree and completed departmental programming.

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