HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) - State lawmakers are proposing to eliminate the check box on job applications, which asks about past felony convictions.
"They do have a harder road to toll, than the average job seeker," says Angie Barksdale, program supervisor for Ottawa County Michigan Works.
According to Michigan Works, an estimated 50% of those on parole or probation remain jobless, while Ottawa County's unemployment late is around 5%.
"They flat out tell me, we are not hiring anyone with a felony," says Dennis Lendzian Jr., a convicted felon. Lendzian says he's been out of prison for six years. He says he served a 12 year sentence, for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old when he was 19.
Lendzian says despite receiving positive feedback while working in prison and getting a certificate in horticulture, he still can't find a job.
"It gets to a point that you don't know what to do with yourself because you feel worthless," says Lendzian.
"Someone that has a criminal record has a variety of barriers, they have been away from the general public for a long time, so they have the 'how do I even look for a job?' (mindset)," says Barksdale.
Now people like Lendzian have new hope, with a proposal to eliminate the criminal background check box on job applications.
"As long as that check box is there I don't believe the average person getting released and trying to rebuild a life has a chance," says Lendzian.
Michigan Works already tries to encourage companies to keep an open mind.
"Give the job seeker the opportunity to explain why they may have that barrier on their record," says Barksdale.
"I don't think they should just read the cover, I think they should read the book about what someone did," says Lendzian.
Opponents of the proposal say employers have the right to know who they're hiring. State Senator Rick Jones says if a convicted criminal is truthful with their employer, they have a better chance of finding and keeping employment.