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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.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.