Hiring West Michigan Parolees

MICHIGAN- New legislation could help parolees find work after leaving prison.

The proposed laws would let the state certify a felon’s skills and help them with the job application process by giving them a certificate of employability.

Michigan’s parolee unemployment rate in 2012 was more than 76 percent. That’s a huge jump from more than 46 percent in the previous year.

Jahaun Mckinley, 40, works at Cascade Engineering. He went from core operator to facilitator in just four years.

As he works side-by-side with his colleagues most people would never guess he spent 18 years in prison.

“At 17, I was just misdirected,” McKinley said. “I had a damaging pool of friends… I had some bad choices with those friends.”

While serving his sentence, McKinley remembers watching another inmate and friend, die in front of him. Knowing a life of crime wasn’t his destiny, he began tutoring other inmates until his release in 2009. However, his immediate future would prove to be a struggle.

“I call it an adventure…because that`s what searching for employment is like with a criminal background,” McKinley said. “I went to Burger King and I learned how to do Word Documents and PDF….I got a smart phone in order to put my first resume together because I didn’t have a computer.”

With each application came rejection. McKinley tells FOX 17 about the time he applied to be a bouncer.

“As I walked away, he looked at my resume, he saw that I had checked ‘criminal background’ and he balled my application up and he threw it away.”

But, with each ‘no’, McKinley pushed harder, until he found one company willing to give him a second chance.

“It’s about justice,” said Executive Vice President Kenyatta Brame with Cascade Engineering. “It’s about not telling somebody that you made a mistake.”

Brame said the company has hired several people, including, McKinley who have prior convictions. The new legislation doesn’t affect the company much because they’re not breaking any rules when it comes to their policies. Brame said hiring parolees keeps them from circulating back through the system.

“If an individual has committed a crime and has served their time…and has no chance of coming back to the community and being successful, we are almost condemning them to prison again,” Brame said. “We’re able to take those dollars spent on prisons and put them in more important places.

Twenty-three years later, McKinley lives a life much different from that misguided 17-year-old.

He and his wife are expecting their first child, a baby girl who is expected to arrive on April 3.

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