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Waco to lower city's hiring standards to help reintegration


Newly released convicts reintegrating into society is one of the biggest challenges and Waco city leaders have been working on how best to deal with ex-offenders.

Waco city manager Larry Groth has been working with the city's reintegration roundtable. He gave a presentation on the issue at Tuesday's city council meeting. He wants to lower the cities hiring standards and put some of those ex-cons to work.

Groth is proposing to change some of the city's automatic disqualifiers for non-civil service jobs and jobs that deal with financial and confidential information.

Currently, if someone is convicted of a felony they would have to wait 10 years since their conviction before they could work for the city. Someone convicted of a violent misdemeanor would have to wait five years and someone convicted of a DWI would have to wait three years if the job involves driving a city vehicle and one year if it doesn't.

Waco Spokesman Larry Holze says the new standards will give ex-offenders an opportunity at a second chance.

"As these people get out of the prisons, the jails and the incarceration, when they‘ paid their time they're sometimes left with no choices. They can't get a job because no one will give them a job because of their record so what are they going to do? Well they're going to turn back to what they've done before," says Holze.

The city will also take into consideration the circumstances of the crime and the job that person is applying for.

Waco would also keep the automatic disqualifier for convicted sexual offenders but shorten the time limits for the others.

Instead of 10 years for a felony conviction it will be five, three years for a violent misdemeanor instead of five and now two years for a DWI conviction instead of three. The new standards would get rid of restrictions on parolees all together.

Waco wants to be the leader in reintegration because 95% of offenders in McLennan County will be released. The city council hopes other employers will follow.

"I think this will be a good starting point, carefully watch these folks but give them the opportunity to start a life anew rather than forcing them to be out in the streets and possibly turn back to crime and be a determent to our community rather than an asset," said Holze. 

Groth says they are still figuring out some of the details but he says he hopes to implement the plan this summer.

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