Michigan small business owner Gary Wozniak is at the head of a movement he hopes will end in legislation designed to help turn more ex-convicts into owners of their own businesses to the benefit of themselves and the state as a whole.
Wozniak is an ex-con who owns RecoveryPark, a company that starts for-profit food industries that supplies food for 130 restaurants across the state. He recently testified before the U.S. Committee on Small Business about the importance of preparing and training inmates while still on the inside.
“There’s a cost saving to society when people stay out of prison," Wozniak told The Center Square. “That’s $40,000 that we don’t have to spend to incarcerate someone.”
Wozniak said his goal is to begin training inmates while they are still in prison so they can be ready to hit the ground running as soon as they are released. He even has plans for offering micro-lending for their businesses.
According to the Michigan Department of Corrections Public Information, 20 inmates have gone through the RecoveryPark program and none have returned to prison.
Wozniak said if inmates find employment within three months after being release, their chances of returning to prison is almost zero.
Wozniak said prison time can affect employment chances for decades.
“I returned from prison over 30 years ago, and despite owning seven businesses, launching an eighth, sitting on five nonprofit boards and mentoring hundreds of returning citizens and people in recovery, I still cannot obtain a job mopping floors in a nursing home because of occupational licensing laws and regulations,” Wozniak said in his testimony.