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MDOC adjusting to help find parolees jobs during pandemic

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 17:31:24-04

BLACKMAN TOWNSHIP, MI (WSYM) - — The Michigan Department of Corrections is working to help prisoners, released on parole, find jobs.

It's a process that's a little more challenging, because of COVID-19 restrictions.

"We're still doing job interviews and we are able to continue operations," said Chris Gautz, MDOC spokesman.

MDOC has two vocational villages.

One is at Parnell in Jackson and the other at Handlon in Iona.

Prisoners in the program take courses in high demand trades, such has carpentry, plumbing and electrical.

"It was great. I learned a lot," said Michael Patrick, who was released from Parnell last week.

His classes were cut short because of a COVID-19 outbreak at the prison.

While that made it difficult to find a job, it didn't stop Patrick.

He's scheduled to start at a local construction company soon.

"If it wasn't for them, it would be really hard because I was trying," said Patrick.

Gautz said about 70% parolees in the program normally have a job lined up when they are released from prison.

During Michigan's stay home order, that went down to about 50%.

He said many were able to find jobs because they are trained in trades deemed essential.

"We're certainly very glad the jobs we've been training them in have sustained themselves throughout the pandemic," said Gautz.

Gautz added this helps keep people out of the system.

"If you get out of prison and you don't have a job waiting to support yourself, you might return to that life of crime," he said.

MDOC was getting ready to open a third vocational village in Ypsilanti, however, that's been put on hold until the state's hiring freeze is lifted because of the pandemic.

The vocational villages have about 400 students, between Parnell and Ionia, when they're running at full capacity.