Letting Ex-Cons Move On
Glad to hear that Detroit is considering stronger measures to help former convicts integrate back into society.
The City Council is weighing a proposal to eliminate questions about convictions from job applications for city jobs and contracts. Numerous cities nationwide already have done so, and advocates say moving the question later into the hiring process would help provide second chances to as many as 10,000 felons who are released from prison each year and return to Detroit.
Yes, as much as I believe that the criminal justice system in America is biased against poor folks, and poor black and brown people in particular, I also firmly believe that there are plenty of men and women who, for whatever reasons, deserve jail as punishment.
But I also think that when you've done your time, your debt to society should be considered paid in full. Your criminal record shouldn't be used to punish you further. Moving questions about criminal history further back in the job application process strikes me as a good start.
Obviously, some disagree.
"Being able to hide behavior that's serious enough to be incarcerated does not seem to serve the public interest. It seems like that's a part of our cultural flow (of moving) away from personal responsibility and public accountability for one's own behavior."
Well, first off, working a legit job is almost always in the "public interest," isn't it? And I'm not sure how a convicted felon who has served his or her time is "moving away" from personal responsibility. Further, I think the "public accountability" part was covered off when the judge handed down that prison time.
So why not let former convicts try to get on with rebuilding their lives? No, Michigan and Detroit don't suffer under ass-backwards policies like laws in some states that prohibit felons from voting — but without a job, how can convicted criminals really be expected to be productive citizens?
Yes, employers should be able to ask questions about a person's criminal history. But in a city like Detroit especially, if we really want people who've done time to benefit our communities instead of harm them, this proposal to delay those questions in the process seems like a reasonable step in the right direction.