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Possible Incentives For Contractors In Jacksonville Bill Aimed At Employing Ex-Felons

Lindsey Kilbride

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis is rethinking his bill aimed at getting ex-offenders jobs, which has received pushback from contractors over some of the bill’s original requirements.

Dennis rolled out some possible amendments Tuesday morning at a special meeting about the bill.

One amendment would require the city’s chief of procurement research and propose appropriate incentives for contractors that hire ex-offenders.

“We can get more done by offering a carrot instead of a stick, if it’s done right,” Dennis said. “... Let’s not rush at looking at incentives, but let’s move in that direction to incentivize businesses that will hire ex-offenders, train those ex-offenders.”

This comes after the finance committee deferred the bill last week.

Dennis’s bill is intended to hold city contractors to the mission of employing ex-offenders, originally it included requiring proof a contractor contacted a city-funded ex-offender employment program. And contracted businesses wouldn’t have be awarded a dime until they’ve provided the proof.

Dennis has scratched that portion, but he’s proposing an amendment that shifts the burden to the ex-offender agency. New city contractor’s contact information would be posted online, and the city ex-offender employment agencies could be required to reach out to the contractors with a list of felons who need work.

Among the issues discussed at the meeting is a need for more ex-offender training that can be done is a short amount of time.

Katherine Burns with the Jacksonville Re-entry Center said her organization can provide a felon fresh out of prison housing for a a few months. She said requirements for certain certifications — like operating a forklift — can be completed in less than a week are more beneficial than months-long courses.

She added it might be better to start training felons while they’re still incarcerated.

Dennis said more training is something that could be funded in next year’s budget.

Dennis’s bill will go on to the finance committee next week.

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