Restore rights to ex-felons

September 5, 2007 |

Felon exclusion laws impact not only individuals, but also communities, according to a University of Missouri-Columbia law professor. By their suppressive nature, the legal statutes, which vary from state to state, have devastating socio-economic, political and legal effects on African-American communities nationwide, he contends.

“Most felons come from particular communities – lower socio-economic status communities and primarily communities of color,” said S. David Mitchell, associate professor of law. “The problem is that upon release, if you send that large percentage back into those communities, you’re adding an increased layer of problems to a community that’s already suffering. What you’re sending back are voiceless and powerless individuals. Thus, the economic and political power of the community is limited.”

In his article, “Undermining Individual and Collective Citizenship: The Impact of Exclusion Laws on the African-American Community,” to be published this month in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, Mitchell discussed exclusion laws that prohibit convicted felons from exercising a host of legal rights – most notably the opportunity to vote. In addition to suffrage, which is most commonly debated among scholars and legal experts, Mitchell advocates that upon completion of their sentences, ex-felons should have all of their rights restored – especially those associated with social services; public and private employment; the opportunity to serve on a jury; and privilege to hold public office. He said restoration should take place without requiring burdensome processes or financial restitution, which are required in some states.

“When ex-felons have finished their time, they should have all of their rights automatically restored,” Mitchell said. “Now, my detractors would say, ‘Does that mean if someone is convicted of a sex offense crime, they should be allowed to hold a job in an education-related field?’ No … there are conditions; however, a greater relationship between the nature of the offense and the restrictions being applied should exist.”

In examining the issue, Mitchell said his goal was to explore the “entire notion of citizenship and what it really means to be a United States citizen.” He concluded the restoration of a cadre of rights is just as important as the right to vote. Restrictions only limit the quality of life and impede the successful reentry of individuals attempting to re-establish themselves in their communities.

“Most people tend to focus solely on the denial of the right to vote, which is incredibly important. But I think it’s a narrow view, which is why I discuss what it means to be a citizen – particularly for African Americans and other underrepresented groups,” said Mitchell, who also is a sociologist. “Citizenship is more than just an opportunity to cast a ballot. Voting is important, but if I can’t have a home, can’t feed my family and don’t have a job, do I really feel like an American citizen? If an ex-felon can’t earn a living, then why would he or she adopt the values of society upon being released? If you’re not allowing them back into society fully, then why should they adopt our rules? They have no reason to uphold the laws, and there becomes a greater propensity to re-commit crimes.”

118 Responses to Restore rights to ex-felons

  1. Christopher Russell June 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Let’s try this…truth in hiring….I want to see the background report of each and every other employed person at the company I’m applying for, as I wish to know what sort of persons I’ll be working with and if I can feel safe and trusting with these people as well….

  2. Karen Penry February 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    I am currently working on my Masters in Conflict Resolution. I am writing a paper on felons and their lives after conviction. I am a mother with two children (adult children) with drug felonies. For them just getting a job, their licenses back, and moving on successfully is very trying, disappointing, difficult, and much more. I feel compelled to help them and the hundreds of others I have come into contact with through watching my children go through the system. I feel once you have paid your debt to society and are released you should be able to go back into society with a clean slate being able to get education, job training, and peace of mind. We, as a society need to change our vision of what being a felon means to someone who wants to be better, to succeed in life. I understand the differences between violent felonies, child abuse felonies, and personal drug abuse felonies. Perhaps there could be a way of rating the intensity of a felony and working from there instead of lumping all felons into one category. People can change and I have been witness to that but the discouragements they face at every turn every day are not fair. You just can’t take all these people and keep them down for the rest of their lives. It affects all of society deep cast systems that grows every year. This has no benefit at all to the felons or the rest of society.

  3. Jerry February 14, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    I have recently thought of ways an individual with a felony could get a job and become a productive member of this society. I am having a hard time thinking of a job that does not continue to discriminate against the felon, and unfortunately the majority of these felons are African Americans, how odd when they only make up 13% of the total population. I have a solution to this problem. what to here it???? well I figured as much but here it goes anyway…..remove the question about felony convictions off all applications and make them individualize only if it pertains to the job such as a sex offender trying to get a job were children are, that company should be able to put on its application have you been convicted of a sex crime, BUT REMOVE THE BS FROM ALL APPLICATIONS AND GIVE THE MAN A CHANCE TO BE A MAN, IF YOU WONT ALLOW AN INDIVIDUAL THE OPPORTUNITY AFTER HE HAS SERVED HIS TIME THE ABILITY TO FEED HIMSELF OR HIS FAMILY WHAT DO YOU THINK HE IS GOING TO DO….OH YEAH THEY HAVE ALL READY THOUGHT OF THIS AND ARE PERPETUATING THIS CYCLE OF MODERN DAY SLAVERY.

  4. m1brewer February 12, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I have written a book titled Thinking Outside the Blox which is a book with 22 little known business options for people who cannot get employed due to a felony conviction. Each chapter spells the business out in a step by step format. Have you ever thought about being a mold inspector or starting a mold remediation business? Did you know the mold inspection course is just 2-3 days and about $300.00 dollars. After you take the course you can get started. Your first inspection will pay for the course. I spell how to get started in this business and 21 other businesses. please order the book from the website thinking outside the blox dot com. My hope is that you either start one of the businesses that i have listed or you start to at least think about your options differently and maybe start a business that i did not describe in the book. I pray that we can begin to think outside the city blocks, cell blocks and all that block felons from getting employed. We have to start thinking outside the 9-5 paradigm. This books makes no mention of job training, what to say as a felon on an interview or who commonly hires felons. Starting your own business is the only answer.

    Michael A. Brewer Author of Thinking Outside the Blox

  5. fred January 25, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    This really warms my heart to see people do care. I was convicted of criminal trespassing when i was 18 in Pennsylvania. I was only convicted because i didnt have money for a great lawyer n he advised me to take a plea. I was 18 n scared so i did. I am 25 now and looking back on the case a cop lied and said i had stolen property on my person while he was on the stand. To make a long story short i did not commit the crime but took a plea because of the fear of jail and still did 30 days in jail. Since then ive had two children how i cant support because i cant even get a job sorting packages for $7.75 an hour ax t ups. This country is suppost to be innocent until proven quilty but it is far from that. The court system ruined not only my life but my kids as well because they will never have what they deserve to have. Im a good dad but cant get a job which means i will never be a great dad. All because the the cop who lied and never got caught. I would do anything and give everything to go back and not accept that plea.

  6. Brad November 25, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    Get your conviction expunged. Your case if true sounds like a pretty flaky case with a lot of cracks. Have your friends that are cops help you. Most teen boys get into some kind of trouble so dont let this take you down, rise above it.

  7. CHRYZTOF KNECHT October 19, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    society creates recidivism by enacting or supporting regulations which permit employers to deny an ex-felon employment. The second chance act is garbage; only catering to those with non violent offenses; what about us who were charged with violent offenses simply because they are categorized as such and no violence was committed?

  8. nic July 4, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    ok for one look at all the bullshit just to say something here. ur name, email with alot of ur info to track u down or virus something to ur contacts wich they’ll sure apreceate.
    look at the real. corporations give large companys insurance discounts not to hire us, no bull about u can’t work here because of what u where blackmaled into a gulty plea 10 years ago.
    thats the crime and they want to have more control on ur life not less!!
    all they got to do is ban enforce the laws they have now about treating people as numbers. like insurance getting away with treating every man harsh on auto insurance at 16 over numbers of other 16 and 17 year olds bad driving habbits, i’ve still never been in an acident that was my fault but they sure charged me an arm and a leg like i was going to for sure.
    same shit here now instead of doing what they are suppost to do(big brother) they have state by state so far 14 i think made laws using the race card kinda like the cival war all over agian dividing peacefull americans, but this time it’s strait new world order shit. Like I plead gulty to shit I didn’t do because lawyer said it would be cleared after probation yes not one day in prison for me no unrehabilitation here folks. but however it was a lie and I plead gulty to armed criminal action which was told to me would be lowered to assult 2 along with another felony that I didn’t do and finally the one I did which was property damage. Now they turned property damage into a nice package of violent felonys and lied to me about all of what I was pleady gulty to and it all being cleared upon successful completion of probation, which I was successful even though po tried to lie about my working just to get me jailed for a minute and try for the 5 year backup to get me off her caseload. alomst 5 years in prison for a not working violation when I was which even if I wasn’t comon 5 years!?!?!? wtf!! anyway me who has never hurt a fucking fly to say will always be bared from whatever work the government says employers are allowed to say no violent felons.
    Its gonna come off all good to most but the gov will now set the glass ceiling instead of breaking the one the insurance company has for us.
    their job is to investigate and punish those who hurt americans which some of us have. but once punished and debt is paid. The gov now wants global control to be their job. no more protection thats not profitable control is get a fucking clue before it’s to late.
    I’ve been kicked out of 2 public colleges over having these opinions with classmates before or after classes not during. only the college i’m in now did I go strat to the dean for a talk in which he agrees some with what I have to say but like we all know to be the real he advised me to not let others know how smart I am in these regards as the powers that be will always be there suppressing me but I let him know I can’t do that and I never will. I’m a free american citizen with a fucking brain and god given right and yes gun rights are a god given right same logic we use for gun ownership is the same as in the bible only a sword(guns of the times). Bet those scholars that wrote all about african american sufferage linkage and bs talking about all rights restored won’t agree whith that when in comes to guns. read there shit close the talk only about jobs and allowing controls on that so wow I can now get a job at ups easier big woup, not exacty presuing my happyness thank u very muck. also the talk of voting and guess what thats political all the way folk, can u say aggenda not that we shouldn’t be able to vote but they must have some knowlege of who they think we would vote for or they wouldn’t say boo about it. and the scholars never mention gun rights because they want to say all rights and get around the argument they have on wheather gun ownership is a right which I think I’ll go with to us constituion on this one than u very much not base my life on these kiss asses with a one agenda minds as in play into those before u’s agenda’s and the powers that be or get squashed like me now out of 2 public colleges over my political stance, no guns no knifes which I should be allowed everywhere I go but they just booted me out with there own rule not law, sp4:20 basically if the dean doesn’t like u and u have a violent record, arrest w/o convictions, fights in junior high all count, they can kick ur out for just for having a past and what the school thinks of ur personality now not anything u did at school or even a thing u did out of school while going to school. I’ve been in no trouble in 10 years from that night at 19 when someone pissed me off when I was drunk threatening my friends family and wouldn’t come out of a business to face me even though they had like 8 dudes with them and I fucked his shit up while drunk to get him to man up, antaginize him,ect… Ya maybe stupid but I don’t drink anymore I walked the line while on probation and for 7 years since in life and I get kicked out for my political opinion and having had that trouble that long ago from 2 public colleges in the last year. wake up re-read this I’m not a fucking author so if this doesn’t make compete sence to u its prob my poor writing skills so re-read because I’m not so bad u shouldn’t get and understand whey the shit I say is bogus is so bogus.
    Thanks Nic Roedel Wanna talk about standing up for your rights call me at 720-319-4451 working for a real better tomarrow for all free american citizens is half my lifes work as it pays no bills work is the other half LOL!! seriously though unlimited minutes here and class action lawsuits possible, protesting possible, lets wake up and do something that will straiten the crooked. Nic Roedel 720-319-4451

  9. Richard Smith June 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    i broke the law and now im a felon. i have paid for my crime. the American system though has many secret agenda’s which are twisted into laws that have nor had any intention on protecting her citizens.the only justic that is afforded by striping all rights away from a felon is that of the white aristocrat nazi philosphy. Men we revere for moral teaching, those of whom are often spoken of every sunday, preached by the very authors of these laws, were killers and often vile humans who changed their lives. am i to accept this fate? no right to vote for the best canidate i choose. no right to protect myself and family and bare arms if need. no right to a good paying job. this is segregation continuing at its finest, in the mask moral punishment.
    well let say this capital hill and her lawticks better get ready for another civil desobedience. we’re tired of compromise.

  10. tom burkef4c March 22, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    i was convicted of a crime that i did not comit 20 years ago and still have troublegetting thing i would like to get like a govmernt grant and my atterney said that i would have all of this taken of my record after 5 years if i keep my nose kleen and i have done that 4 times over and the prossiaquiding atterny said that i should have never been convicted of the crime and its not fare to people like myself i am 54 years old now and my helth is falling so whats a person to do

  11. bob kern January 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    I believe if you can pay taxes, vote and be forced to be on jury duty your rights should not be limited into what you can can’t do. Because someone makes bad choices doesn’t mean they can’t make good choices. Forgiveness is hard to give apparently but if the shoe was on the other foot and laws were still on the books such as adultry alot of people would be locked up and have a felony. People need to learn to forgive and give people another chance and the ones that are non violent offenses.

  12. bob kern January 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    contact me 317-428-8681

  13. Bob Kern January 1, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    My name is Bob Kern I was the first felon from Indiana to win a Federal Election. Could you please contact me 317-428-8681

    Bob Kern

  14. MyRah November 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Time that people like you start speaking out about the injustice that occurs in our “justice system”.

    Stand strong and walk forward with college classes and look for ways to change the laws. You don’t need to be an attorney to develop ideas and programs that can help rehabilitate and teach others. I have been working on a program to change the civil family law system. I am focused on getting support from the local community and the local colleges to help introduce it in our state.

    Your situation is not unique unfortunately. So you may not be able to be a cop; instead learn how the justice system works and go to the high schools and college campuses and start teaching about “what could happen if….” and ways to stop kids from getting long term records that corrupt lives permanently. Kids (like when you were in the fight) don’t know what could happen. And they are all scared, like you, with no support to help them. And look at what not knowing can do! Communicate and teach the world around you. It won’t change until people in your situation stand up and start voicing it.

    Good luck.

  15. MyRah November 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    As someone that is married to a registered sex-offender, who committed a one time low level crime over 19 years ago (at newly 18 years of age), I am personally offended with the lack of justice in our society. His crime stemmed from a poor choice to act out from 15 years of severe abuse and he was charged incorrectly but had no attorney or family support. (I have read ALL the documents in this case) This man has better integrity and character than most people I have ever met.

    But due to his “Scarlet Letter A” we are unable to rent almost any place to live, he cannot obtain jobs that do background checks, his ex-wife harrasses and uses his title of “registered sex offender” as a way to prevent him from attending martial art classes, joining public gym clubs, obtaining business accounts, going to parent teacher conferences, etc.. since most people assume the worst and are afraid of him. Since businesses can’t “take the chance” of something happening.

    And my husband went to jail for 4 years and completed his probation. When is he ever to have his rights fully restored. At what point is he more than a sub-citizen? His ex-wife knew his background…just as I know his back ground. He is one of the mst wonderful men you would ever know. His friends include police officers, PSR workers, business owners etc.. and anyone that takes the time to know him is shocked to hear that he ever committed a crime and they are not afraid to have their children around him; even after knowing his crime.

    I watch all of the lack of justice and limited rights that happen to an ex-con and find it offensive beyond measure. It would have been better for my husband to be a drunk and kill someone in a hit-and-run than to be charged with exposing himself at the age of 18.

    I would like to see some real support and rehabilitation happen to ex-felons when they are released. Most of them have horrendous backgrounds that honestly, if most of us grew up the same way, we would probably do the same thing they did to survive.

    We need our society to stop forever condemming and focus on supporting ways to help felons overcome and respond different to their world. Teach them ways to be productive in society and give them the opportunities to learn and be that way. Obviously they didn’t learn how to be productive from home or they have mental/emotional issues that need to addressed or they wouldn’t have committed an offense in the first place.

  16. jackson October 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    yes we’ve all commited crimes no one is complely innocent but as people we deserve the rite to re-establish ourselves and be productive citizens. without proper employment and the right to vote and other things were restricted from felons end up back at ground zero trying to feed their familes and back into a life of crime. this is a path most of us want to put in the past……give us a chance thas all we ask

  17. Phoenix1 October 9, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    I have founded an organization designed specifically to relieve white collar ex felons of many challenges presented them after incarceration. The right to vote is just one of many. There are many others that are not even intended by the judicial system. These are some of the most burdensome. If you would like to help and follow our cause, you can follow

  18. John g. October 1, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    Amen! I got into a fight when i was17 in 1999 in fort worth Texas I couldn’t afford a lawyer had a court appointed attorney who scared the he’ll out of me it happened at a hotel where a party was and some friends started it and took a guys wallet long story short I got a felony of a burglary of habitation!!? I only signed for probation bcnu was scared not bc I was guilty I was 17 and no family was in orphanages since I was 5 and I was going to college and was afraid of going to jail. Now I’m a felon and can’t find work. I have friends that are cops and when they were younger were younger were in gangs and robbed people stole cars but since they were not caught that were able to turn thief lives around. It’s not fair!! I’d make a better cops then all of them bc I have a true desire to help others. Why can’t I be given that second chance?

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