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Could employing ex-felons cut down on crime?

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Updated: 10/30/2013 8:30 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Ex felons, working inside schools with your kids. Parents, without hesitation, told Action News they're not on board. But some experts said it may actually help cut down on crime.

One man told Action News he is proof convicted felons can turn their lives around.

"I was a kid. I ain't going to say I was an angel but I was a kid," Terrance Denson said.

It's a mistake he made 30 years ago that has haunted Denson ever since.

"Me and a couple friends we were hanging out and got into a fight with some more kids from a different school and I was accused, I was charged with assault," he said of the incident that happened the night he graduated from high school.

Denson used to drive a school bus for Duval County. But he was let go this year because of his felony. Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti wants to change guidelines to allow the district to consider convicted felons, for jobs -- if their charge was more than 10 years ago.

Candace Moody with WorkSource said most medium to large businesses in town won't hire rehabilitated felons. She said it hurts the community even more.

"Having a barrier like that that will prevent you from having a job is one of the big things that drives people back to committing crimes," said Moody.

Action News checked around and company policies can vary drastically. Some restrict by type of crime, most set a timetable for rehabilitation. But is allowing felons in our schools taking it one step too far?

"Once you protected the children, once you make sure dangerous people, violent people aren't exposed to the children or students, what you've got is people who have great skills who made an early mistake in their lives," Moody said.

Action News also reached out to Operation New Hope. Last year, the organization placed 251 ex-offenders in jobs. The organization says it even worked with the city three years ago to get the charter changed to allow the city to hire ex-offenders.

Operation New Hope says hundreds of local employers work with them to fill jobs -- and they assess each business to find out which types of crimes they will and won't allow.

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