New Michigan ‘Job Court’ Offers Second Chances in the Upper Peninsula

Downtown Marquette (Gary Meulemans via Unsplash)

By Kyle Kaminski

April 12, 2023

A new pilot program aims to reduce recidivism and help local businesses by providing Michiganders who are accused of low-level crimes an opportunity to obtain gainful employment. 

MICHIGAN—Attorney General Dana Nessel is testing out a new program in Marquette County aimed at preventing crime and helping local businesses at the same time. It’s called Job Court.

The new pilot program—which is so far only being rolled out to 100 people in Marquette County—offers those accused of low-level, non-violent crimes a chance to participate in a work program for a year (instead of probation or jail), and then have their criminal charges dismissed.

“This program is smart on crime, it reduces the burden on our criminal justice system, puts offenders on a permanent path to success, helps our local businesses, and will make our communities safer,” Nessel said in a statement announcing the launch of the new program this week. 

Marquette County Prosecutor Matt Wiese will pick the initial 100 people to be matched with a participating employer and a caseworker. Only those charged with low-level crimes—like possession of a controlled substance—will be accepted. Disqualifying offenses include domestic and sexual violence, assault, theft, and crimes involving dishonesty like retail fraud and larceny.

Participants will also be screened on a case-by-case basis by considering other factors like their suitability for employment, past criminal history and potential impact on public safety. If they successfully complete the paid, one-year program, their criminal charges will be dismissed.

In a statement, Wiese said many defendants land in court simply because they haven’t had the opportunity or support needed to be a “successful, productive member of society.” This program essentially aims to offer them a second chance to prove themselves by working a job, he said.

Participants will also receive access to other services to assist them in completing the program, including addiction and recovery therapy; mental and behavioral health therapy; transportation; food and clothing assistance; and other help navigating available community-level resources. 

State lawmakers have allocated $4.8 million to continue developing the program. About $1.1 million is earmarked for the new program in Marquette. State officials said they plan to use the remaining $3.7 million to launch similar Job Court programs in Wayne and Genesee counties. 

Employers interested in participating can fill out a short survey to determine their eligibility. 

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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