LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) testified Tuesday before the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on hisSenate Bill 293, part of a bill package that would reform state occupational licensing laws that discriminate against citizens with past criminal convictions.
The bill package — including Sen. Moss’ SB 293 and House Bills 4488-4493 — would redefine if a person is of “good moral character” in the license application process. The current definition restricts employment opportunities for applicants with criminal records by allowing a previous conviction, in and of itself, to lead to the application being rejected. Under the legislation, state licensing boards and agencies would have to consider an applicant’s overall employability, such as how long ago the offense occurred, other evidence of rehabilitation, testimonials, employment history, and employment aspirations.
“The Michigan criminal justice system ought to be set up to rehabilitate offenders, including atoning for their past behavior and learning the necessary skills to contribute to society — but some Michigan prisoners are actually being trained for jobs that the state knows they will never be able to hold,” Sen. Moss said. “The system fails when the state encourages returning citizens to continue on their path toward reform yet gives them few opportunities to fairly compete in our economy. A lot of these employment hurdles disproportionately impact people of color because the criminal justice system disproportionately adjudicates against people of color. These bills represent a part of the solution needed to address racial disparities, while giving everyone a chance to overcome past mistakes.”
The panel unanimously approved SB 293 and sent it to the full Senate for consideration.
Michigan continues to face a shortage in skilled trade workers, and this bill package would allow qualified workers — such as those who have graduated from the Department of Corrections’ Vocational Village program that helps prisoners develop competence in the skilled trades — to find work after incarceration.
Sen. Moss and Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Township) spearheaded these bills for two terms, and the House Bills recently passed in the House by a unanimous vote before being sent to the Senate for consideration.
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