Operabug / Flickr Creative Commons

We are so thankful for the State of Opportunity universe. The whole team wishes you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

If you or someone you know is looking for a place to spend the holiday, we have some suggestions: 

Mstyslav Chernov / Wikimedia Commons

There’s been lots of talk lately about refugees, mostly about whether to let them into the U.S. and how they’re being vetted. But there is a human side to this story about what it actually feels like to be a refugee. So today on State of Opportunity, we're going to spend some time with a refugee who's called Michigan his home for the past four years.

leeroy09481 / flickr

Michigan is beginning to reach a state of normalcy after the worst economic shock in a generation. Last week, the state announced the unemployment rate held steady at 5%, which matches the national average. Which is to say, Michigan is no longer a worse-than-average place for people trying to find work. 

And that's good news, because a new economic paper spells out just how bad a job loss can be not just for the adults going through it, but for their kids too. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

After last week's attacks in Paris, President Barack Obama condemned the terrorists and pledged support to France, saying: "We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance the people of France need to respond." You can listen to his full remarks here:

flickr/michigancommunities / Michigan Municipal League

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder took some time yesterday to clarify his stance on the future of Syrian refugees in Michigan.

Snyder, who two years ago declared himself "probably the most pro-immigration governor in the country," now says he doesn't want to completely stop Syrian refugees from arriving in Michigan. He just wants a pause, so that the federal Department of Homeland Security can review its screening procedures to ensure none of the refugees (who already undergo intensive screening) are terrorists. 

"Most people are not terrorists," the governor said, according to a report from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta. "This is just to be prudent, to make sure some terrorist element is not entering our country." 

user Kate Ter Haar / Flickr

Yesterday we heard from an ex-con about what it was like for him to transition from life behind bars to life on the outside. He says having a mentor helped a lot – someone to whom he felt a true sense of responsibility – and he didn't want to screw it up by doing something bad and winding up back in prison. 

I asked a handful of other former inmates to share their advice for those who are about to or are in the midst of transitioning back into society. Here are their answers:

What advice would you give to inmates who are about to re-enter society?

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

How do you navigate life on the outside after you’ve been locked up in prison for years? That’s a question more than 6,000 federal inmates recently faced when they were released early from prison due to changes in how the government sentences drug criminals.

So what does it take to successfully re-enter society?

We put that question to Tim Hurley, an ex-con who did two stints in prison. He says having a mentor once he got out helped him transition big time. 

Michael Coghlan / Flickr Creative Commons

Each year, more than 600,000 adults are released from prison in the United States. Half of them return home to a child under the age of 18.  

When it comes to providing for a family after incarceration, having a criminal record is one of the biggest obstacles. It can be nearly impossible for formerly incarcerated parents to find a job or a place to live.

U.S. House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee

What you see above is a chart of all 80 federal programs that provide help to low-income families. This chart was prepared by the leaders of the U.S. House committee that oversees federal social service programs. Republican leaders on the committee put it together for a hearing a couple days ago.


Kent County Sherriff Deputy Patrick Stewart was on his lunch break last week. Lunch, in his case, was at 12:30 in the morning. He stopped at a fire house in the town of Cutlerville, on the outskirts of Grand Rapids.

"And I heard a very loud knocking, pounding on the door," he says. "When I got to the door, there was a frantic man there saying that he had somebody – his buddy – in the back of his vehicle, and had ODed on heroin, and was no longer breathing."

Stewart called for an ambulance, and started chest compressions on the man. When the ambulance arrived, the paramedic who came to help is actually Stewart’s wife, Amanda. She gave the man a drug called Naloxone. It works as basically an antidote to a heroin overdose, reviving someone who’s on the verge of slipping away. Together, the newly married husband and wife saved the man’s life.

That part of the story is remarkable.

Everything else about it has become far too common, says Kent County Undersheriff Michelle Young.