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Detroit job fair: Only ex-cons need apply

Detroit job fair: Only ex-cons need apply

I could be wrong, but when your city is suffering under serious unemployment and higher rates of incarceration than high school competency, giving preferential treatment for job placement to felons just seems wrong:

In a city where over a quarter of its residents are unemployed, and almost 30,000 of them are either on probation or out on parole, Detroit is looking to put ex-convicts back to work. On Wednesday, the city held an "Offenders Only" Job Fair at the East Lake Church.

Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh organized the job fair, along with Wayne County Community College and Kelly Services. Pugh, a former television and radio personality in his first term on the council, has been advocating for job opportunities for convicted felons since he took office in 2010.

The city council has even gone as far as trying to get the question 'Have you ever been convicted of a felony?' removed from job applications in Detroit.

"That group (ex-convicts) has difficulties finding jobs," Pugh said in an interview with 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 featured up to 200 potential job openings from employers, and the only people allowed a shot at the jobs had to have a felony on their record. Pugh feels that the lack of job opportunities for felons, including violent felons, leads to recidivism.

"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."

I understand that people can change and that, in general, people are worthy of a second chance, but normalizing a criminal record doesn't seem to be a positive way to solve the city's problems.  And what about the people who are struggling to find work and haven't been to prison?  What message is this event sending to law-abiding citizens struggling to make ends meet?

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