Waco City Council wants to welcome ex-felons onto the city payroll — but only under certain circumstances.
In a work session Tuesday, the council said the city should do its part in a community effort to reintegrate ex-offenders into the community.
Current city policies forbid hiring any ex-felon until 10 years after the crime. City Manager Larry Groth recommended changing that to five years and also relaxing time restrictions for those with misdemeanors or deferred adjudication.
“We need to get away from these strict times and look at three things: the nature of the crime, the length of time since the crime occurred and the job function,” Groth said. “I think all the times are a little too long.”
Groth said sex offenders would continue to be banned from employment, and convictions for certain crimes might disqualify people from working with children, handling cash or dealing with sensitive information.
Groth is developing a new policy based on direction from Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. and council members who have been involved in the community “Reintegration Roundtable,” which seeks to help ex-offenders become good citizens and family members.
Groth said the reintegration effort ties in with the city’s “Prosper Waco” anti-poverty initiative.
“Over the years, I’ve found if we can find people jobs, the creation of wealth does wonders for your community to solve a lot of social problems,” he said.
Councilman Wilbert Austin said he liked the direction of Groth’s proposal but wanted to go further. He said a five-year wait might be too long for someone who’s out of jail and looking for stability. Groth noted that the hiring moratorium begins at the time of the crime, so a felon who has served five years wouldn’t have to wait.
“This is a huge shift,” Groth said. “We’ve got several things to consider. We need to be a leader (in reintegrating ex-offenders), but we’re also in the business of public trust. We have to be careful where we put our employees.”
Council members Toni Herbert and Alice Rodriguez agreed it is an important step in getting the community’s employers to give ex-offenders another chance.
“It’s a real move in the right direction,” Herbert said. “I’m glad to see us starting to make progress.”
Duncan said providing employment is an important step, but it also will be crucial for churches and other community organizations to help support ex-offenders.
“There’s a whole array of support services that has to go along with a job,” he said.