From Prison to Paycheck: Helping Michigan’s Returning Citizens Succeed


In 2012, two Grand Rapids area businesses—Butterball Farms and Cascade Engineering—started the 30-2-2 Initiative as a goal to have 30 local companies hire at least two ex-offenders for at least two years. Under the leadership of Mark Peters and Fred Keller, respectively, the 30-2-2 Initiative recognized the community and corporate value of employing those who have served their time and paid their debt to society.

In addition, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan, led by Patrick Miles, recognizes the need to improve prisoner re-entry efforts to prevent crime by curbing repeat offenses and re-victimizations.

In a nation where 600,000 people are released from state prisons annually, efforts to positively engage returning citizens are instrumental. Nationally, 67% of those released from state prisons re-offend within three years and are re-incarcerated. Michigan’s recidivism rate is lower
than the national average, but one of the primary reasons people re-offend is the lack of employment opportunity.

Michigan spends about $35,000 a year to keep an inmate behind bars, not including the costs of police and courts, lost wages and taxes, and squandered human potential. However, “provide a man or woman with a job, and that stops them from even contemplating crime,” says Jahaun McKinley, a young man who defied the odds when he landed a job at Cascade Engineering after his release from prison.

In an effort to connect more people like Jahaun with West Michigan companies (many of whom are actively looking for good employees), the U.S. Attorney’s office is working with the 30-2-2 Initiative. Among other things, the 30-2-2 Initiative seeks to build the business case for removing employment barriers for people returning to their communities. Over 15 employers have signed on so far.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and 30-2-2 will host an employer summit on Thursday, May 26, 2016 from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. at the WMU-Cooley Law School to educate local companies and community partners about 30-2-2 and invite them to join. Please save the date and watch for details regarding registration and meeting rooms.

Contact Tracey Weaver Brame, assistant dean at WMU-Cooley Law School, 616.301.6800 x 6919 or Carrie Link, assistant to the CEO from Butterball Farms at 616.243.0105 for more information.

This guest article first appeared in the May 2016 edition of The Chamber News. Visit to find more thought leadership like this.