Local Advocacy Group Earns High Praise; Former President Clinton Cites Ready4Work for Its Work with Ex-Convicts

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

Some friends told Kevin Gay recently that his Jacksonville-based Ready4Work program had gotten kudos in Bill Clinton's new book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.

Skeptical, Gay looked for himself and found that the ex-president had devoted nearly two pages to the Jacksonville program that provides mentoring, job training and employment for ex-cons.

"I was just blown away," Gay said. "There was no heads up or anything."

The mention begins on page 101, where Clinton lauds Gay's efforts to reduce crime rates and even mentions him by name.

The recidivism rate among the program's participants is 1.9 percent in six months and 5 percent in a year, Clinton said.

That's compared to a 32 percent recidivism rate over five years for inmates released from Florida's prisons, a state Department of Corrections spokeswoman said. The federal rate is close to 70 percent in three years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The program, which focuses on those with non-violent and non-sexual offenses, has been adopted in 17 other cities and the "results of their efforts have been impressive," Clinton wrote.

Gay said he hopes the recognition will eventually shake loose more local government funding, which was cut 10 percent to $132,300 in the recently adopted city budget. He had asked for $250,000.

The reduction really hurts because a three-year, $1 million demonstration grant from President Bush's faith-based office ended last year.

The good news, Gay said, is that the state's contribution increased from about $200,000 to $780,000 this year. Another $300,000 in federal spending has been proposed by U. …