Governor Takes Steps to Help Returning Citizens Join the Workforce in Well-Paying Professions

LARA and MDOC partner to reduce recidivism and eliminate unnecessary barriers to professional licenses 

Media Contact: LARA Communications 517-335-LARA (5272)
Email: mediainfo@michigan.gov

LANSING, Mich. -- Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced today an interdepartmental partnership that will help individuals currently incarcerated join the workforce as licensed professionals and earn a second chance. A partnership between the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) will increase employment in licensed professions for individuals with felony records, rehabilitate offenders and improve public safety. 

As part of the partnership, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the departments to establish responsibilities and procedures for assisting former offenders in meeting initial licensure requirements for professions regulated by LARA. 

“Increasing employment opportunities for returning citizens reduces recidivism and improves public safety. These measures are crucial as we make our state a home for opportunity for all Michiganders,” said Whitmer. “This partnership creates a path forward for incarcerated individuals to find gainful employment as licensed professionals who can help grow our economy.” 

Under the partnership, LARA will review license applications submitted by individuals currently incarcerated who have successfully completed a MDOC Career Technical Education (CTE) program. 

“We look forward to working closely with the MDOC to provide licensing resources to individuals currently incarcerated,” said LARA Director Orlene Hawks. “This cooperation will allow former offenders to contribute to their local Michigan communities and build successful careers.” 

The types of careers needing state licenses the MDOC will focus on initially under this agreement include cosmetology, building trades, plumbing, electrical, masonry and barbers. Prisoners in these programs will be prescreened to ensure there are jobs available in those fields in the communities where they plan to return. 

“This partnership with LARA will help prisoners earn the proper licenses they need before they are paroled, ensuring a seamless transition to the community and no unnecessary delays in beginning their new professions on the outside,” said MDOC Director Heidi Washington. 

LARA issues hundreds of license types throughout the department, including professional licenses under the Michigan Skilled Trades Act, the Michigan Public Health Code, and the Michigan Occupational Code. 

As part of the path forward for former offenders, LARA is updating its licensing applications to clarify that a criminal record does not necessarily bar licensure, even when the application includes a felony checkbox or a requirement that applicants have “good moral character.” LARA instead considers each candidate on a case-by-case basis, including whether the offense relates to the license sought, how much time has passed since the conviction, evidence of rehabilitation, and other specific circumstances. 

Applicants may also request a preliminary determination from LARA concerning whether any court judgments against an individual would likely result in a denial of a license for failing to meet the good moral character requirement. 

To help applicants navigate the process, LARA has also developed a resource summarizing how criminal records affect various types of licenses under LARA that is available here. As noted above, many individuals can still receive a professional license despite a criminal conviction, and LARA encourages all qualified individuals to apply. 

The two state departments will work closely with and provide educational resources to a variety of stakeholders who directly counsel potential applicants on career choices, including Michigan Works! agencies and professional trade associations. 

Licensing information for each profession in LARA and throughout state government can be found here.

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