In the city of Detroit, one out of four residents is currently unemployed, and 30,000 of them have criminal records that discourage employers from hiring them.
In a creative and controversial move to put ex-convicts back to work, On Oct. 12 the city held an “Offenders Only” job fair designed to match willing employers with job seekers who have felony convictions.
Firs- term Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh, a former television and radio personality, organized the job fair, along with Wayne County Community College and Kelly Services. Pugh has been advocating for job opportunities for convicted felons since he took office in 2010.
“That group (ex-convicts) has difficulties finding jobs,” Pugh told Detroit Public Radio on Thursday. “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 job fair, held at East Lake Church, featured up to 200 potential job openings, and job seekers were required to have a felony on their record to apply. Pugh feels that access to job opportunities for felons, including violent felons, will lower the crime rate.
“In this tough job market, we know that it is difficult, regardless of whether you have a felony or not, to find a job,” Pugh said. “But we feel that population needs just a boost of confidence and some hope that there are employers out there who will give them second chances.”