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MICHauto and the Chamber Join Gov. Whitmer in Supporting ‘Jobs Court’ Pilot Program to Keep Communities Safe by Putting Michiganders to Work

LANSING, Mich. — Today, as part of Governor Whitmer’s MI Safe Communities Plan, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II joined Attorney General Dana Nessel, MICHauto, the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, Detroit Manufacturing Systems, Goodwill Industries, the United Auto Workers, other businesses across state, and representatives from the law enforcement and criminal justice communities to announce a new proposal called Jobs Court, which would put Michiganders accused of low-level, nonviolent offenses in good-paying jobs to reduce recidivism and help businesses staff up.

“The Jobs Court proposal we unveiled today will make a crucial difference for Michiganders, their families, and communities,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “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.”

The new proposal, part of the larger MI Safe Communities framework the governor laid out in August, would make a $5.5 million investment to establish Jobs Court, a pilot program to give up to 450 eligible defendants in Wayne, Genesee and Marquette counties accused of low-level, nonviolent crimes an opportunity to obtain and maintain gainful employment.

“Providing people with another chance in life and an opportunity to contribute to society is good for businesses and communities throughout Michigan,” said Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives Detroit Regional Chamber. “MICHauto is proud to support the Jobs Court initiative and applauds Gov. Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel for their leadership in developing the program. Companies throughout our state need talent, and this pilot program has the potential to change the trajectory of people’s lives, and help grow Michigan’s economy and labor force.”

“Today’s announcement is an important step forward in our efforts to reform Michigan’s criminal justice system so that it is focused on rehabilitation and positioning people for success,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II. “Jobs are the key to success, and Jobs Court will support eligible Michiganders by connecting them with good-paying jobs, benefits, and the social services assistance they need to support themselves and their families. With today’s proposal we are addressing a root cause of public safety issues by connecting eligible offenders with the support they need to find and maintain 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,” said Attorney General Dana Nessel. “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.”

Individuals who qualify and are selected for Jobs Court would be matched with participating employers to work a good-paying job with benefits, opportunity, and training to learn transferable career skills. They will be required to maintain frequent and open communication with their employer and with the State of Michigan to ensure accountability and compliance with the requirements of the program and will be eligible for wraparound services such as mental healthcare, transportation to and from work, and access to a social worker. Prosecutors will be offered the option to dismiss charges against Jobs Court participants who successfully complete the one-year program.

“Survey after survey tell us that the public wants courts that are engaged with local communities and connected with the people they serve,” said Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack. “Jobs Court provides exactly what the public is asking for – courts that are community resources, helping to connect people with jobs and the support they need to get their lives back on track. This is not a free ride but a common sense approach that solves problems and strengthens communities.”

The Jobs Court proposal is modeled in part on the successful programs the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) has launched to provide prisoners with education, skills, and job training in high-demand fields. Since 2016, MDOC programs such as Vocational Village have delivered training in automotive technology, welding, robotics, computer coding, commercial truck driving, forklift operation, carpentry, plumbing, electrical trades, and concrete and masonry work. MDOC’s work in this field has resulted in higher employment rates for released prisoners and Michigan’s lowest recidivism rate in state history.

“What an amazing opportunity! A good-paying job with benefits is everything,” said N. Charles Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Detroit & Southeastern Michigan. “This Jobs Court prosecutorial diversion program will help Michiganders who have committed nonviolent offenses earn a good wage with benefits, learn new employable skills, and get back on their feet, setting them up for success, period. This is a bold initiative that targets criminal justice issues at their roots. We’re very appreciative for the partnership of Attorney General Nessel and Governor Whitmer in proposing this crucial, much needed reform to our criminal justice system.”

“At DMS, we are passionate about helping others reach their full potential to succeed in life,” said Bruce Smith, majority owner, chairman & chief executive officer of Detroit Manufacturing Systems (DMS), a Chamber member and MICHauto investor. “Having the opportunity to partner with the MI Jobs Court to provide program participants with an opportunity to obtain gainful employment is exciting because we enjoy helping people grow, rise and give back. Accordingly, we are grateful to be a part of the Governor and Attorney General’s MI Jobs Court program.”

MI Safe Communities
The $75 million MI Safe Communities proposal was the result of hundreds of conversations the governor and her team had with law enforcement officers, community leaders, faith leaders, and families over several months. Based on those conversations, the governor announced the three-pillar MI Safe Communities framework in July.

MI Safe Communities would:

  • Invest more money into Michigan’s police departments to strengthen training policies and programs and foster collaboration between the Michigan State Police and local departments on specialty services.
  • Increase the number of visiting judges with funding for prosecution and defense to tackle the backlog of criminal cases that has piled up during the pandemic, to protect the rights of defendants and help the justice system operate more efficiently while maintaining public safety.
  • Make comprehensive investments to expand opportunity through Michigan’s education, jobs, and justice system including Collaborative Community Violence Intervention Programs, counseling, peer support, mediation, and social services to hospital patients recovering from violent injuries and prevent further violence and injuries.

Funding Law Enforcement
Since taking office, Governor Whitmer has signed budget bills delivering $1.4 billion to local governments to help them fund local police, fire departments, and emergency medical services. She has also delivered $40 million in COVID hazard pay for local officers and first-responders and over $10 million premium pay for MSP troopers. These dollars help ensure police are better equipped to fight crime today and have the resources to fight crime tomorrow.

Budget
Earlier this month, the governor signed the Fiscal Year 2022 budget bill that delivers more resources to state police to help them hire more troopers and expand and improve training. The latest budget also invests in 911 system upgrades and delivers on the kitchen-table fundamental issues that make our communities stronger: putting 167,000 Michiganders on a tuition-free path to higher-education or skills training, expanding low or no-cost childcare to 105,000 kids, repairing or replacing 100 bridges while creating 2,500 jobs, and more.

Earlier this year, Governor Whitmer and legislature worked together to put Michigan students first and passed the largest significant education investment in state history, closing the funding gap between schools in Michigan and including a historic amount of resources for schools to hire more nurses, counselors, and social workers. Early investments in mental and social health help reduce crime in the long run.