In 2014, 10,000 prisoners were paroled in Michigan, and approximately 900 of them returned to Kent County to rebuild their lives.

Upon trying to re-establish themselves in their communities, one of the first hurdles facing former prisoners — who are referred to as “returning citizens” by those doing work in the area of prisoner re-entry — is the felony box on job applications.

For many employers, a checkmark in that box immediately disqualifies a job candidate, regardless of the details of their crime. That leaves returning citizens in the precarious position of not being able to find a job or getting stuck in entry-level positions that often don’t provide a livable wage —and that, in turn, can lead to recidivism.

National studies have found approximately two-thirds of formerly incarcerated persons are re-arrested within three years of release and almost half are re-incarcerated. In Michigan, the current recidivism rate is 30 percent, the lowest the state has ever seen.

According to Jacob Maas, CEO for Area Community Services Employment & Training Council, housing and employment are the biggest factors in the likelihood of recidivism.

“You need to have both in order to reduce recidivism,” Maas said.

The correlation between employment and decreased recidivism is so strong, the U.S. Department of Justice has taken an active role in promoting re-entry programs as a crime prevention measure.

You can read the entire article at the website of our partner, the Grand Rapids Business Journal, or pick up this week's edition of the Business Journal on your newsstand.