Chicago Utility Informative - Chicago Hiring Ex-Cons to Collect Your Unpaid Bills!

Review by D. on 2006-05-24
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- City to hire ex-cons as collection agents

May 24, 2006

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

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.

In a continuing effort to help people make the transition to life outside jail, the city's Department of Revenue is planning to enter into a contract with a collection agency that provides jobs for ex-offenders.

Under an ordinance Mayor Daley plans to introduce at today's City Council meeting, some of the city's outstanding debt would be turned over to Collectors Training Institute, a licensed, bonded, minority-owned collection agency that partners with the North Lawndale Employment Network.

No access to credit info

The network is a nonprofit agency that trains ex-offenders for careers in a variety of fields, including the collection industry.

Revenue Director Bea Reyna-Hickey said it's too soon to say how many ex-offenders would be hired or how much of the city's outstanding debt they would handle. But she emphasized that deadbeats have no reason to hit the panic button.

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, she said.

"We have the ability to screen out if there's certain categories of ex-offenders we choose not to utilize. But the most important thing is all the data will be encrypted. It's coded in a way where you can't put details together on any individual," said Reyna-Hickey, insisting there is no danger of identity theft.

"They will not have any access to credit card information or any detailed information on a customer," she said. "Various law firms and collection agencies are doing this now. This will save the city money. Collection costs will be lower. "

Aim to stop revolving door to jail

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 -- with a few, clout-heavy exceptions, including Hired Truck kingpin John "Quarters" Boyle -- a crack at city jobs.

The personnel change was a key recommendation of a mayoral task force that spent a year examining issues confronted by the more than 20,000 ex-offenders who return to Chicago each year.
Comments:11 Replies - Latest reply on 2006-05-25
Posted by D. on 2006-05-24:
The Above was taken from today's Chicago Sun-Times. Found on
Posted by tander on 2006-05-24:
Just think on the other end of the phone could be a child molester or maybe a murderer paroled for good behavior. Yippee!!!
Posted by Doc J on 2006-05-24:
Or some sod being given a second chance by being given a nasty job most of us wouldn't want to do.
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-05-24:
I think that is an insult to collectors everywhere, that is the ones without a checkered background.
Posted by Hugh_Jorgen on 2006-05-24:
Look at the bright side - at least we know the ex-cons are paying out the wazoo for their long distance calls thru Correctional Billing Services. I say keep 'em on the line and talking!
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-05-25:
DB- Good one….. I think this has been done before and I think it is a very bad idea. Why not offer these jobs to the vets coming back from the war who can’t get jobs.
Posted by D. on 2006-05-25:
That's right...and we have alot of disabled vets who would be happy to be in the working world...but you know how it works...go fight for our country, risk your life, return wounded if you return at all and we will treat you like a criminal and treat the criminals with respect and give them everything.
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-05-25:
DebtorBasher - I almost forgot "Good Morning little Debbie"
Posted by D. on 2006-05-25:
Lidman - What is with this "Little Debbie"? You're driving me nuts with that!
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-05-25:
DebtorBasher - WHY? It's cute and you said little debbie's are sweet?
Posted by D. on 2006-05-25:
Lidman - So are donut holes, but I wouldn't want to be called one! LOL

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