Recent mishaps have some considering revamp of Second Chance - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Recent mishaps have some considering revamp of Memphis Second Chance Program

(WMC-TV) - A recent mishap has the Memphis City Council considering the fate of the Memphis City Second Chance Program.

In 1999, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton founded the Second Chance Program to acclimate the annual influx of nearly 9,000 ex-felons into society.

"We have made a commitment to provide them with an opportunity, such as jobs," said Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins.

Collins said he supports the concept of the city employing ex-felons to prevent recidivism, but confusion over a recent hire is causing council concerns.

"That was an anomaly," said Memphis City Human Resources Director Quintin Robinson.

Robinson confirmed a community enhancement employee, hired to clean up blight, was quickly fired.

"It was an unfortunate situation where that individual had not completed the background process prior to starting work," said Robinson.

Last year, the council banned the box on city applications that shows if an applicant has a criminal history.  The employee was not routed through the Second Chance Program.

"I hope it will provide a pathway to open discussion about the city's Second Chance Program," said Collins.

Robinson said people with more than one felony conviction are disqualified from the program, but that did not stop the previous administration from hiring Second Chance employee Demetria Hogan.

The program came under scrutiny last month when Hogan, an animal control officer, was charged with animal abuse.

Hogan has a violent criminal background, including three felony convictions.  Her case is pending.

Collins said the council needs to take a closer look at overall strategy.

"I believe if another agency is out there doing a better job than we are, then why not engage that other agency?" asked Collins.

Collins said Second Chance costs the city $185,000 per year.  Other organizations already run similar programs for $120,000.

"It ought to open the eyes of the council members about what we're really funding and how it's being operated," he said.

Robinson said the city followed protocol.

"If there's a better way to do what we do, we're always open to that," said Robinson.

Collins said council members recognize the need for the program, but they want to ensure resources are being used to benefit all.

The city council will discuss the fate of the Second Chance Program in the coming weeks.

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