Detroit Moves to Make Second Chance Easier for Felons, UM Goes in Opposite Direction

Jake Neher/WDET

Detroit City Councilmember At Large Janee Ayers joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson.

One of the biggest employment and housing challenges in southeast Michigan is the box — the check box on applications that asks about felonies in an applicant’s past. It can be a huge barrier to opportunity and important second chances.

On Detroit Today, Stephen Henderson and guests talk about two different approaches being undertaken by the city of Detroit and the University of Michigan.

Last week, Detroit City Council unanimously approved a ban-the-box ordinance for people seeking rental housing in the city.

U of M is taking the opposite approach. People applying to work at or attend the university will now have to disclose if they’ve been convicted of a felony.

Jake Neher/WDET

Asia Johnson, a returning citizen who hopes to be admitted to U of M

Click here to see an explanation of the new policy from U of M, as well as an FAQ

The university says that won’t lead to automatic denials. But some advocates are pushing back, saying the policy indulges unfair discrimination.

Janeé Ayers is Detroit City Councilmember at Large, and the sponsor of Detroit’s new ordinance requiring most rental housing in the city to follow a ban-the-box policy for former inmates.

Heather Ann Thompson is a professor of history at the University of Michigan and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who focuses on criminal justice issues.

Jake Neher/WDET

Heather Ann Thompson (right) with Natalie Holbrook (left)

Natalie Holbrook is program director for the American Friends Service Committee‘s Michigan Criminal Justice Program.

Asia Johnson is a returning citizen hoping to get into the University of Michigan as a student. She’s also Detroit Client advocate with the Bail Project and the Detroit Justice Center.

Click on the audio player above to hear those conversations.


Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

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Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.  

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