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Jacksonville Ex-Offender Employment Bill Approved By Council

Ray Hollister

The Jacksonville City Council approved a bill Tuesday that encourages city contractors to consider hiring felons.

The bill, 2017-35, sponsored by councilman Garrett Dennis requires businesses contracting with the city for at least $200,000 complete an extra step toward considering  ex-offenders to fill job openings.

The city can withhold payment if a contracted business does not submit a notarized form indicating it reached out to an ex-offender training and employment program for possible applicants.

That’s in addition to what the businesses are already required to report, including whether they hire ex-offenders and how many they interviewed.

“This bill is all about consideration so they’re not mandated to hire an ex-offender,” said Dennis at Tuesday’s meeting. “When they interview an ex-offender they still will hire the best person for the job. It’s not a quota.”

Businesses are exempt from the form’s requirements on a project if they’ve already hired an ex-offender.

The bill also requires the city’s procurement chief to provide contractors’ contact information to city-funded ex-offender training programs.

The procurement chief must also research the best route for incentivizing contractors to hire ex-offenders and report it to the council by the end of April 2018.

The bill has changed since it was introduced. The original version required contractors produce a certified letter from a city-funded ex-offender program, stating they’d been in communication. The new bill relies on contractors self-reporting they’ve been in contact.

The change came after some representatives from the construction community said the original bill’s requirements were too much of a burden on contractors.

The city funds four programs that help train and employ ex-offenders. Some of those programs say more city money for job training would help with employing felons.

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