Jacksonville Councilman Being Asked To Dial Down Ex-Offender Bill

Feb 22, 2017

Credit Ray Hollister / WJCT News

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis is dialing back his bill aimed at getting more city contractors to hire ex-offenders.

He’s said he’s received pushback from construction contractors.


The city funds four programs that train and employ ex-offenders: three nonprofits and one through the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Dennis’ bill would require companies that contract with the city for at least $200,000 to reach out to one of the four programs for help with hiring.

However, after push back from the construction community, the rules city council committee Dennis chairs voted to kill several requirements in the bill, including the contractor having to provide a job description for openings to a city ex-offender program. The committee also struck contractors having to produce a certified letter from an ex-offender program stating they’d been in communication. Originally, the bill said they wouldn’t be paid without doing so.

President of Breaking Ground Contracting Mary Tappouni said those requirements put too much  of a burden on contractors and many of them already hire ex-offenders.

The amended bill would require contractors to self-report they’ve reached out to a provider by checking a box on a form they already fill out and having the document notarized.

Dennis calls it the honors system, but said he’s still confident it will make a difference for ex-felons.

“We  have a crime problem here in Jacksonville,” he said “We need to put everything on the table. We need to use every tool in the toolbox to fight crime and this is just one tool in the toolbox.”

Councilman Danny Becton said the bill could go further. He thinks the city should do more to help job posters know the ex-offender programs exist.

“Educating me as an employer of what resources available are out there,” Becton said. “The hardest thing to do is find people who want to work.”

Dennis said funding education on this matter could be factored into next year’s budget.

When a company contracts with the city it already agrees to “cooperate with the City in addressing the goal of securing employment for ex-offenders.”  

This committee’s amendment serves as a recommendation to the full council. The bill should come up for a final vote next Tuesday.

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