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Genesee County launches state’s third Job Court pilot

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(The Center Square) – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was in Flint on Tuesday to announce the launch of Genesee County’s Job Court pilot program.

The program is the second pilot to launch in Michigan thus far this year. Marquette County launched in April. Wayne County will launch its program next week.

Job Courts is a prosecutorial diversion program for low-level, non-assaultive criminal offenders. Applicants accepted into the programs will be matched with participating employers in their areas. The employers will provide what the attorney general says are good-paying jobs with benefits, training in career skills, and career wrap-around skills.

Defendants will be selected by the county prosecutor on a case-by-case basis and will also be required to pay restitution for their criminal activity. Defendants who successfully complete one year of the Job Court will be eligible to have their charges dismissed.

Responding to a question from The Center Square, Nessel said $4.8 million was appropriated by the Michigan Legislature for the three Job Court pilot programs. Of that, she said, $1.35 million was allocated to Genesee County.

“We have three supervising case managers … each of which is responsible for overseeing the program for their county along with the team case managers. Those positions are housed locally in each county,” Nessel told The Center Square. “We’re also hiring a project director for the program out of the Department of Attorney General.”

Additionally, Nessel said two assistant attorneys general will be assigned to assist prosecutors in administering the program.

She noted Wayne County will begin its Job Court program with 200 participants, four case managers, and one supervising case manager. Genesee County will begin with 150 participants, three case managers, and a supervising case manager.

Nessel said the $4.8 million taxpayer outlay should more than pay for itself by reducing the burden on county jail sentences, which cost approximately $40,000 per inmate per year, as well as the money saved by clearing court dockets of cases involving nonviolent offenders.

“I can’t tell you how important this is being in a courtroom and seeing people make a change – genuine change – in their lives, turning things around thinking differently,” Genesee County Judge David J. Newblatt said. “Having a job is critical and this is exactly the right approach. Let’s figure out a way to work with people in the community to divert them away from the criminal justice system, get them focused on holding the job, and that will go a long way towards helping people.”

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