WUOMFM

Group encouraging businesses to consider hiring people with criminal backgrounds

May 30, 2016

A group of West Michigan business leaders wants their peers to consider hiring people who’ve served time in jail.

Butterball Farms started hiring people with criminal records 20 years ago to attract more qualified candidates to their butter processing business.

“Honestly we started doing it to expand our applicant pool, ‘Who aren’t we currently attracting as a candidate or considering for opportunities?’ and that’s how it really started,” chief talent officer Bonnie Mroczek said.

Now, Mroczek says some of those people have become some of their most dedicated employees, with many moving up the ranks to management positions.

Mroczek and others are trying to convince other businesses to do the same. She says many hiring managers overestimate the potential risk to the company, while ignoring the risks of blocking ex-offenders from good-paying jobs.

“We don’t have different expectations, but it’s giving them a chance,” she said.

Patrick Miles, the U.S. attorney in Michigan’s Western District, says giving ex-offenders a chance at a good job can prevent crime and reduce how much taxpayers spend on things like prisons.

“These are people who we need to welcome back into society fully and if we don’t we’re going to face very negative consequences,” Miles said.

In Michigan, about one in three ex-offenders is back in jail within three years of their release.

That’s lower than the national average, but a group of West Michigan business leaders wants to see it get even lower. They’re supporting a program, called 30-2-2, to break down barriers that discourage other employers from including ex-offenders in their job applicant pools.

“It’s not something that, as US attorney, I’m saying give people with criminal records preference over people with clean records, not at all. But just don’t automatically exclude them,” he said.