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Law & Order

Left And Right Converge On Justice System Reform In Jacksonville

Ryan Benk
CNN Contributer Van Jones moderates a panel of mayors on "banning the box" at Wednesday's Operation Reform Summit.

Business leaders, advocates and politicos met in Jacksonville Wednesday to call for solutions to mass incarceration.

Two of Operation Reform’s attendees were Republican Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

The progressive and conservative mayors found themselves meeting in the middle.

Operation Reform attendees applauded for Jacksonville business lawyer Kevin Hyde at the introduction of Wednesday’s first session of the summit. Hyde advocates banning the box on job applications where people tell an employer whether they’ve been convicted of a crime.

Another supporter of banning the box is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who made the change on city employment applications this year.

“It wasn’t heralded all the way by everybody,” Gillum said. “There were folks who I thought were philosophically aligned with me who didn’t roll out the red carpet.”

And Mayor Lenny Curry agrees with Gillum, despite his political differences. Jacksonville hasn’t asked for city employee criminal histories on its initial application since 2009.

Curry also mentioned he’s increased funding for programs targeting at-risk youth and alluded to more programs in the pipeline.

“We can debate how we do the housing, how we do the reentry programs, but we have to be committed to funding them,” Curry said. “Government plays a role in that, and I stand here as a fiscal conservative telling you that we must step up and show that we’re committed with our dollar.”

Curry said he’ll be rolling out new programs in the coming months meant to address inmate reentry, community building and crime prevention. Curry said he'll be asking the community to take a more active role in mentoring at-risk youth.

Both mayors say the next move is to expand the box ban from city jobs to the private sector, but that might be a harder sell.

Still, advocates for the policy change also made clear that employers could still inquire about past convictions, just that it’d have to be during the interview process and not before a prospective employee is initially considered.