The Chicago Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development has given a non-profit agency that focuses on individual and community health a $180,000 grant to employ 50 ex-convicts on the West Side, where many come from and where many return after being released from prison, the Chicago Tribune reports.
On Thursday, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed a bill that allows ex-convicts to receive certificates of good conduct upon release from prison and lifts previous barriers from housing and employment in certain professions, including barber, beautician and nail technician.
Some business owners who will participate in the agency’s ex-offender project said they have hired people with criminal records. “You really have to trust these people until they give you a reason not to trust them,” said Walker Harris, owner of an ice delivery firm. A few business owners have set up guidelines for employing ex-convicts. “You really have to develop a training program that is extensive in social skills,” said Jeff Loving, vice president of Land Jet Transportation. “You can’t go in there unshaved, you can’t go in there with your hat to the back and a scarf on your head because the customer doesn’t want to see that.”
The agency plans to have 60 ex-convicts complete job training and counseling. At the end, 50 jobs will be available in construction, landscaping, catering, warehousing and other fields.