If you have an overdue Chicago parking ticket, water bill, or police fine, the next call you get could be from an ex-con telling you to pay up, says the Chicago Sun-Times. In a continuing effort to help people make the transition to life outside jail, the city Department of Revenue will enter into a contract with a collection agency that provides jobs for ex-offenders. Ex-offenders will not be handling cash or credit card information. They will merely be placing phone calls to scofflaws under rigid guidelines established by the Fair Debt Collections Act. If the person on the other end of the phone decides to pay up, the call will be transferred to a payment agent. One official said the system will be set up in such a way that there is no danger of identity theft.
Mayor Richard Daley has earmarked more than $8 million from the $1.83 billion windfall generated by the Chicago Skyway lease for an array of programs that help ex-offenders avoid what he calls the “revolving door” that sends two out of three back to prison. Earlier this year, the mayor put more than money behind the ex-offender initiative. He ordered what he called a “radical change” in the city’s personnel policy to give ex-offenders who were previously disqualified a crack at city jobs.