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Gov. Whitmer, AG Nessel Announce Jobs Court Proposal

DETROIT - After months of discussions and planning, today Attorney General Dana Nessel announced a new proposal to put Michiganders accused of low-level, nonviolent offenses in good-paying jobs to reduce recidivism and help businesses staff up: Jobs Court. The proposal was unveiled this afternoon at Goodwill Flip the Script North End Career Center alongside Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II and other community stakeholders. 

The new proposal, part of the larger MI Safe Communities framework the governor laid out in August, would make a $5.5 million investment to establish Jobs Court, a pilot program to give up to 450 eligible defendants in Wayne, Genesee and Marquette Counties accused of low-level, nonviolent crimes an opportunity to obtain and maintain gainful employment. Eligible Jobs Court participants would be matched with employers to work a good paying job with benefits, opportunity, and training to learn transferable career skills.  

"Jobs Court is an innovative program that checks all of the boxes: it's smart on crime, reduces the burden on our criminal justice system, puts offenders on a permanent path to success, helps our local businesses, and makes our communities safer," AG Nessel said. "I am grateful to Governor Whitmer for including my proposal as part of her MI Safe Communities framework and I look forward to working with the Legislature and our local law enforcement partners on this groundbreaking new initiative." 

"Today's announcement is an important step forward in our efforts to reform Michigan's criminal justice system," Lt. Gov. Gilchrist said. "Jobs are the key to success, and Jobs Court will support eligible Michiganders by connecting them with good-paying jobs, benefits, and the social services assistance they need to support themselves and their families. With today's proposal we are addressing a root cause of public safety issues while also providing life-changing paths to employment in the state." 

"The Jobs Court proposal we unveiled today will make a crucial difference for Michiganders, their families, and communities," Gov. Whitmer said. "Jobs Court will help address the backlog in our court system, fill job openings across the state, grow our economy, and connect those in need with critical resources. I'm thankful for the hard work of Attorney General Nessel in putting this proposal together and look forward to working with the legislature to get it done." 

Jobs Court participants would also be able to use wraparound social services, such as mental healthcare, transportation to and from work, and access to a social worker. Participants would be monitored for one year and be required to maintain frequent and open lines of communication with the employer and wraparound services from the state of Michigan to ensure accountability and compliance with the requirements of the program. Prosecutors would have the option to dismiss charges against Jobs Court participants who successfully complete the program, which will be dependent on legislative action to launch. 

"I know Jobs Court is a winning idea because the proposal builds on the super successful model of Michigan's 200 problem-solving courts," Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement said. "When Jobs Court becomes a reality, Michigan will take another big step forward in helping courts become community resources and places of healing and transformation for our neighbors in need. I am honored and thankful to the Attorney General for the opportunity to work on this project and look forward to visiting Jobs Court and congratulating the first graduates." 

"Jobs can be the answer to many of society's ills. Jobs create opportunity. Jobs create hope. Jobs create growth. Jobs create stability. A common dominator to success, even in the criminal justice system is a good job," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said. "For certain lower-level crimes, instead of jail or prison, you get a job. In Wayne County this will be a 200-defendant pilot. Stay in the job for a year, or whatever period of time that a judge proscribes, and my office will dismiss your case. This is yet another first-of-its-kind and innovative project where I am honored to be working with Attorney General Nessel. I thank Governor Whitmer for striving to fund this, as well as our job providers for their interest in this inaugural project." 

"This program is exactly what is needed to break the cycle of challenges individuals transitioning out of custody face when they're trying to move forward," Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington said.  "Too often individuals have overlapping difficulties dealing with a variety of issues and if they do wind up in the legal system it often fuels more problems coping with life.  I applaud this effort to eliminate those hurdles because the goal is to reduce interactions with the courts and get these men and women--who want to be employed--successfully entrenched in the marketplace." 

"As the Sheriff of Genesee County, I'm witnessing the combined effort of Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel blazing more trails. This trail leads to the restoration of real people," Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson said

"Any time we can steer a bad situation toward a positive outcome that will help an individual get on the right track in life and be a productive member of our community, I am all for it," Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said

"Giving people an opportunity to be productive allows them to prove that they deserve a second chance," Marquette County Prosecutor Matt Wiese said. "This innovative program will ultimately reduce crime, save money for the criminal justice system, and most importantly, the person charged with a crime will end up with a good paying job to support them self and their family rather than a criminal conviction. I am happy that Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel recognize the value that this type of program can bring to the people of Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula."