From Prison to Paycheck: Grand Rapids’ 30-2-2 Initiative
Jahaun McKinley of Grand Rapids, Michigan, defied the odds when he landed a $9.50-an-hour job after his release from prison – nationwide, more than half of former inmates are unemployed. Now he is on the front lines of a business-led effort to change the prospects for people with criminal records throughout the region.
Launched by two Grand Rapids firms, the 30-2-2 initiative aims to enlist 30 area companies to hire two people each, track their job performance for two years, and help build the business case for removing employment barriers for people returning to the community. Seventeen employers, predominantly in health care and manufacturing, have signed on so far.
In a nation where 700,000 people, disproportionately African American and Latino, are released from state prisons annually, efforts like this are instrumental in building a sustainable economy. More than four in 10 of those released from state prisons return there within three years, at huge costs. Michigan spends $35,000 a year to keep an inmate behind bars, more than the cost of educating a student at the University of Michigan, according to the New York Times. That does not include the costs of police and courts, lost wages and taxes, and squandered human potential.
“Provide a man or a woman with a job, and that stops them from even contemplating crime,” McKinley says. “As a society we demonize people who have been in prison, but there are many of us out there who just want an opportunity to live a productive life.”