Detroit Holds Ex-Cons-Only Jobs Fair

Non-violent offenders need second chance, say backers

By Greg Wilson
|  Friday, Oct 14, 2011  |  Updated 1:23 PM EDT
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Getting out of prison and into the job market is even tougher in the current economy.

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The city of Detroit has high unemployment, and no one has a tougher time finding work than an ex-con.

So Detroit recently held a job fair strictly for ex-cons. More than 200 jobs were available, and no one who had not been convicted of a felony was eligible to attend.

"That group (ex-convicts) has difficulties finding jobs," City Council President Charles Pugh said in an interview with Detroit Public Radio. "A lot of times, folks who come out (of jail) and get roadblock after roadblock and door closed, they give up and some of them re-commit crimes because they feel that's their only option."

The "Offenders Only" fair was held at the East Lake Church. Violent offenders, sex offenders and people who had committed crimes against children were not allowed to participate.

According to The Grio, more than 1,200 attended and many wound up with employment.

"It was a huge success because over 200 people got jobs," Pugh said. "There were people from transportation companies, cleaning services, the City of Detroit was there with job opportunities. It was an opportunities to give people who have had difficulties a second chance."

Supporters say helping ex-cons get jobs cuts down on recidivism. In addition to holding fairs, the city offers tax breaks and incentives to employers who hire paroled felons.

Julian Pate, the Director of Education at Focus: HOPE, a Detroit nonprofit which helps train candidates, said helping primarily black men between the ages of 18 and 24 who have been incarcerated benefits society.

"What we're doing is trying to prepare people for the workplace," Pate said. "It might be janitorial services, or individuals who are trying to put themselves on a sustainable footing and be trained along the way."

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