In 1996 – under Clinton, by the way – the U.S. decreed that people convicted of drug related criminal offenses would never be eligible for Food Stamps or other government assistance. Up until 2011, almost a full quarter of states disenfranchised their ex-felon population, even after those individuals had served their sentences and paroles. Still, those rights are not restored automatically. The ex-convict, having expressed a desire to vote, must complete a process to have his suffrage rights restored. Virgina and Florida are still obtrusively intransigent. barring for life, anyone convicted of a felony, from voting.
Many industries also ban ex-felons from working in them. For example, the American Bar Association will not allow ex-felons who successfully complete law school, from ever practicing law. That applies to civil law as well as felony law, so an ex-felon can not only never become a defense attorney, she can never practice any form of law. She can’t even be a clerk in an existing firm. Or, after serving a decade in prison, helping out in the infirmary, Prisoner number 01716S decides she wants to go to medical school. Well, she’s welcome to take all the classes she wants – but she’ll never be a doctor.
Now, let’s get back to the idea that incarceration serves as a societal disincentive against commission of criminal acts. Prisons were created in America, so the law biding could tell the non-law biding, if you do this, you’ll go to prison. Proponents of the death penalty – wrongly – rely on the deterrent argument. Theoretically, A person would think twice before committing an act so heinous as to result in execution. This being the case, since most felons go through life, blissfully unaware that they will never again be allowed to vote or get on the dole, I fail to see how disenfranchisement can serve as a deterrent.
Whether the purpose of prison is to deter, to punish or to rehabilitate, one overarching fact remains. The very definition of justice states that once an individual has paid his debt to society, the punishment stops. Once the time is served – the time is served. The guy’s square with the house again. He or she should be allowed to pick up the pieces of their broken lives and start anew. This should apply to working – in any field, to voting – a Constitutional right – and to receiving government assistance. And especially so, to Food Stamps. Would you starve someone just for having made a mistake? Surely, that comes under the heading of cruel and unusual.
You can learn more about this issue by going to State Felon Voting Laws (ProCon.org), Felony Disenfranchisement (Wikipedia) and Unfair Punishments (New York Times).
BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.
- New York Times editorial laments increases in “Disenfranchised Felons” (sentencing.typepad.com)
- Cammett on Felony Disenfranchisement and the Criminalization of Debt (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Voting connects inmates to society (bangordailynews.com)
- You Have the Right to an Attorney… FAIL! (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- “What’s In a Name? A Lot, When the Name is ‘Felon'” (sentencing.typepad.com)
- March 10th Digest Post – NYT (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Colorado to Big Pharma: Got Any Pentothal? (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Just Born! Welcome to BitcoDavid’s BoxingBlog (bitcodavidsboxingblog.com)
- Amnesty International Petition for Angola 3 Member (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Wasted Lives – Our Children Die in Adult Jails (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
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