Bill Gives Ex-Cons a Chance at Work; Council Will Vote on Proposal to Document Business Hiring Efforts

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Byline: MATT GALNOR

Companies that seek some Jacksonville city contracts of more than $200,000 may soon have to document their efforts to hire people with criminal records.

The proposal again is scheduled for a vote by the City Council on Tuesday after a decision was postponed last month when members had further questions.

The bill wouldn't place hiring requirements on any businesses, said Councilman Kevin Hyde, who is pushing the proposal.

The main intent of the bill is to create an environment in which businesses don't automatically slam the door on an applicant just because the person has a criminal record, he said.

The provisions would apply to companies with contracts for construction, capital improvement or clean-up projects.

Finding employment for people coming out of jails and prisons was a top priority of the Jacksonville Journey, Mayor John Peyton's anti-crime initiative.

About 57,000 people will come back to Jacksonville this year from jails and prisons, said Kevin Gay, founder and president of Operation New Hope.

Nationally, two out of three people released end up going back to jail within three years, Gay said.

Compliance with the bill could range from hiring ex-offenders to having a written employment policy that states "ex-offenders will be given full and fair consideration in employment."

Businesses will have to fill out a checklist to document their efforts. If the business doesn't hire any new employees, the business would automatically be in compliance with the bill.

Councilman Bill Bishop said he'll vote against the bill, which he says unfairly targets the construction industry - a field that probably already leads the way in hiring ex-offenders. …