Proposal For Memphis City Contractors To Hire Felons

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(Memphis) A controversial idea from a Memphis city councilman has lots of people talking.

It would require city contractors working with the city of Memphis to hire felons and the hard to employ.

Lee Harris hopes to bring his idea to a vote before city council.

Harris represents North Memphis and Frayser and he says his constituents want to see an anti-crime program and a job a program and this ordinance would be both.

While in prison for 19 years, CSO Norvell says he saw people come in and out.

“You have a lot of them come back because they couldn't find a job.”

He’s a fan of Harris’ idea.

“We should use our City spending as a positive force in the community,” said Harris.

Harris plans to ask the Memphis City Council to mandate contractors hired by the City to use ten percent of that city money to hire people who normally have trouble finding jobs.

“The categories are the long-term unemployed, people living deep poverty who need a job opportunity, ex-felons and people who participate in City-endorsed job training programs.”

He says, if passed, the ordinance would be in place for three years, at a time when the City plans to spend millions on a sewer project that could put people to work.

Harris says the ordinance would apply to any project costing the City $100,000 or more.

“As we renovate sewers throughout the City of Memphis,  let's do something about this hard to place population.”

“I think it's unnecessary,” said a local construction worker.

Some construction workers say contractors already try to do that, “Contractors don't usually look at the background, they just want people to work.”

Others say veterans should be at the top of Harris’ list.

“Veterans need jobs. Ex-cons need jobs,” said Norvell.  “It would help. It would help a lot.”

Harris says veterans could be added to the list.

He is still taking public feedback and plans to introduce the ordinance in late January or early February.


  • Ron Shaffer

    “Harris represents North Memphis and Frayser and he says his constituents want to see an anti-crime program and a job a program and this ordinance would be both.”

    Really I’ve never seen or talked to anyone so who did Harris talk to in my neighborhood as I live in Frayser. Now government wants to dictate who a employer hires before they can be even considered for a job? Vets I can see but again why do ex cons and felons have to be included. Nobody forced them to break the law but the law wants to force folks to hire them. I thought that was a preference of the employer and not the city.

  • Tony C. Jones

    I am all for that, but why just contractors? Are those who have paid their debt to society restricted to digging or toting? I have noticed WREG does not hire felons. But they are not the only company that doesn’t. You want see them working in any city or county positions. We deal with a system that says you serve time to pay your debt to society but it looks like that is an ongoing bill. I find it strange on an employment application it says if you answer yes to being a felon it will not hinder you from getting a job, so why put the question on the application? This is strictly eyewash, it sounds good. Politicians do not have anything to gain helping those who are not allowed to even vote. If they really want to help take that question off the application. There was a man wrongly accused of selling drugs, he was given a choice take 8 years of probation or 25 years in prison. He had no money for a lawyer and it was the public defender that was giving him the choice. Now he is a felon for something he did not do. When filling out an application he has to check that and tell the potential employer why. In an interview would you believe a black man if he was telling you white people railroaded him into a charge? No! Most look at him with disdain and think to themselves there goes another one wanting to blame white folks for what he did, ” he should not have been selling drugs!” So what does someone like that do? If you tell the truth you are seen as a liar and if they see you as a felon you still will not be hired. If you pass an ordinance pass one that gives felons a chance at all kinds of jobs from digging to putting out fires. Just be fair.

    • badboi

      I think that’s the whole point… There are some innocent people out there who get convicted wrongly. Does a single conviction mean you no longer deserve to work and earn a living?

  • 1midtownmike

    Memphis, you have one foot in the grave and another foot on a banana peel. You are already the Detroit of the south…….the backs of what’s left of a politically correct tax base will eventually be broken and federal funding will be the only hand that feeds and we all know how that works out.

    Get ready and assume the position.

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