Councilman: Contractors Need To Prove They're Willing To Hire Ex-Offenders

Jan 20, 2017

Jacksonville City Hall
Credit Ray Hollister / WJCT News

A  Jacksonville city councilman wants city contractors to try harder to hire ex-criminal offenders.

Councilman Garrett Dennis’s bill would impose more rules on the companies.  

When a company contracts with the city for at least $200,000, it also has to agree in writing to “cooperate with the City in addressing the goal of securing employment for ex-offenders.”  

That agreement includes reporting job openings ex-offenders might be able to fill, documenting ex-offenders the company hires, or explaining why it hasn’t hired any.

But Dennis said checking off a few boxes on a form isn’t proof of a good faith effort.

“It basically wasn’t worth the paper that it was written on, to be honest with you,” he said.

Dennis said the city is paying more than a million dollars to train ex-offenders through the Sheriff’s Office and three nonprofits.

At the same time, the city is paying a total of $150 million to contractors who have a responsibility to consider ex-offenders.

Dennis said he wants to connect the two by mandating new contractors engage with one of those four programs, “to see if there are any ex-offenders who are qualified and at least consider them for employment,” he said.

He said before contracted businesses are awarded a dime, they would have to provide a certified affidavit they’ve met the requirements for one of the city’s programs.

The contractors, which could be anything from a construction company to an auto mechanic, would have to provide openings and job descriptions to the city’s ex-offender trainers.

The businesses would then be provided a list of ex-offenders who may be qualified.

“A lot of those ex-offenders, they’re good people that made a mistake and this is an opportunity for them to get a second chance in society,” Dennis said.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.