Detroit Pistons help provide ‘second chance’ to more than 150 citizens from the justice-impacted community

Andrew McCoy was incarcerated as a teen.  

After more than 14 years in a Michigan prison, McCoy faced obstacles to gaining employment. For that reason, he has been mostly self-employed since his release more than 20 years ago. 

“I started working my second month out and have been working ever since but jobs would let me go based on my record,” McCoy said. “I started working for myself by buying houses and flipping them because there were certain doors I couldn’t go through, so I had to do it myself.”   

When he found out about the Second Chance Summit hosted by the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena earlier this month, he had to attend.  

“I had to rehabilitate myself and now I want to walk through every door just like everyone else,” McCoy said.   

The Pistons, the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, Safe & Just Michigan, the City of Detroit, the Michigan Attorney General's Office, Project Clean Slate, the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and other resource groups provided support to more than 150 formerly incarcerated individuals. The event served as an opportunity for a fresh start for Michiganders with old criminal records.  

“I believe that people should be positioned so that they can take full advantage of their second chances,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Dawn Ison said during the introductory news conference. “I stand here today thanking the Detroit Pistons, thanking all our partners and the city of Detroit for affording an opportunity for people to be positioned to take a second chance.”  

The event included a clinic, in which volunteer lawyers helped eligible individuals apply for expungement of their criminal records under Michigan’s 2021 Clean Slate Act. A job fair was also held in which employers and counselors offered assistance connecting applicants with employers willing to hire formerly incarcerated people. Later in the afternoon, a panel discussion offered more insight into the issue. 

Record expungement enables Michigan residents to remove certain past offenses from their public record and provide opportunities like housing and employment. Under Michigan’s Clean Slate laws, eligibility was expanded to more than 1 million Michigan residents.  

“Ten years ago in this city, the unemployment rate was 20% and if you had a criminal record, you had almost no opportunities,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. “As we started bringing jobs and companies back, it became obvious very quickly that if Detroit was going to be revitalized, we needed the talent of every single Detroiter.”  

Last year, Project Clean Slate expunged the records of 5,000 Detroiters.   

“We want criminal justice and reform but so few people understand what it takes to make that real,” National Basketball Social Justice Coalition Executive Director James Cadogan said. “Putting on an event like this and providing resources in the community will make a difference in people's lives.”  

Among the hosts of the event was Mark Barnhill, who represents Tom Gores’ ownership team with the Pistons, and is one of Gores’ partners at Platinum Equity, the global investment firm that Gores founded and leads. 

“We're embedded in the community and committed to improving the economic and social wellbeing of Detroit,” Barnhill said at the press conference.  

 “We're proud to be a sponsor of today's event, which is focused on some of the important tools that support rehabilitative justice and successful reentry into society by people who are formerly incarcerated.”  

Continuing second chances  

Following the all-day expungement event and job fair, community members, formerly incarcerated individuals, advocates and other supporters of criminal justice gathered in Heritage Hall at LCA for panel discussion on the value of second chances.  

Panelists included: Safe & Just Michigan Director of Community Outreach and Partnerships Ken Nixon, GreenLight Detroit Executive Director Jasahn Larsosa, Pistons’ former assistant coach Jerome Allen, JP Morgan Chase Policy Center Executive Director Nan Gibson and the CEO of the Detroit Housing Commission Sandra Henrique. The event was moderated by WDIV-TV reporter Megan Woods.   

The panelists discussed the importance of second chances, societal barriers and the value of promoting change.   

“Employment is huge for a lot of people that are returning to the community, because sometimes, more often than not, it's a requirement of their parole and there's barriers in place that prevent you from being able to attain quality employment because of the convictions that you are on parole for,” Nixon said.  After spending 16 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Nixon was exonerated in 2021.  

There was universal agreement that second chances from large organizations like the Pistons are incredibly impactful.    

“I would like to think that as a member of the brotherhood and sisterhood that we call the NBA, it is powerful enough to break these barriers,” said Allen, who is a member of the justice-impacted community. 

 “This issue is important to so many people that are connected to this game and I just so happen to be one of the examples as to the proof to that.”