Restore rights to ex-felons

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.”

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.

119 thoughts on “Restore rights to ex-felons”

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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

    • 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

    • 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. 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

  13. Same hear made a mistake at 17 b&e 2 felony’s now I’m 29 with my first child on the way I just don’t know what to do this is indeed a LIFE sentence this is the way they make money I am really ready just to lay down and give up but daddy’s little girl needs me what about the second chance act for ex- offenders

  14. Thank you all so much for these stories, an critical life events. i’m going to take this far, first to my govoner. I have a boyfriend Pablo he’s 21 commited a crime at 17 did the time, now out here he can’t get a decent job just because a dumb mistake. But I’m here for him and with ya’lls words of encouragement I will do everything in my will and power to help my man encluding others, people do change, especially felons.

    wish the luck to all of ya’ll!

  15. I read that if you have more than one conviction as an adult,you can not get EXPUNGED, If you have a fellony and then get a misdemeanor, you can not get EXPLUNGED, is that true?

  16. I made a mistake when I was 18, I got into a fist fight and was charged with a felonious assault and was sentenced to 3 to 15 year sentence. I served three. When I was released and after I got off parole, I volunteered at our local Juvenile center for 3 months and was offered a job and excelled and was promoted to Sergeant in one year. During my employment over a four year period, I decided I wanted to go into parole and I needed to get my gun rights reinstated, so I hired a attorney and applied for relief and was grated my gun rights back by local court. The thing is, I lost my job shortly after words because a convicted felon who was friends with a local county commissioner sent him to apply at the Juvenile center and was turned down because he was a felon, well the commissioner and the guy that applied knew I was a convicted felon because of the articles that had been writing up in the local newspaper about me trying to make a difference with the youth in the community. So both the county commissioner and the guy that had applied raised hell and I lost my job. Because of this, the judge was forced to take a look at the law and in fact, he could not hire me until 10yrs after my parole date. Needless to say I lost my job and was walked to my locker to collect my belongings and escorted to my car after being read a letter by the judge apologizing and telling me to reapply after my ten years were up. Well that whole incident was unfortunate but I was granted my gun rights back under section 2923.14 of the Ohio Revised Code in 2001 and I just now applied to get my CCW in 2010 and was successful but when I tried to buy my first gun I was denied and I found out latter I could not buy a gun but I have my CCW, I don’t understand the logic but the law is the law. All I can say, people do change I made a mistake when I was 18 and now I am 35 married to a wonderful woman and three great kids. Maybe one day some people will realize that some people do change and should be given a second chance. If society is not willing to give people like myself a second chance, then I have in fact been sentenced to a life term sentence, and not only do I have to suffer for my past mistakes I made in my past but the ones I love the most, my wife and my kids also must pay because I cant be the provider to my family that I want to be. I have so many things to be proud of, my kids are all honer roll students and active in volunteering in our community. I have broke the cycle that has been passed down from my family to me, my kids are the new generation that did not grow up in the environment that I did and I must also give dues to my wife Jenn because she has been my rock. I think it would be more then fair for the powers that be make it possible for a convicted felon like myself and others get a fresh chance after 10 yrs after our parole release. I think every case should be looked at because I do believe everyone should not have a gun in their hands but if a man can prove that he is a productive trusted member of society then give that man or woman back his life so he or she can go in peace…

    • In Florida it is impossible to get gun rights restored. Forget about finding a decent job. The way I look at it is prisons are a industry in Florida. There are over eighty prisons here. If they taught everyone a trade while in prison that in itself would cut down on the people coming back. I have been out for six years next month. I will never be able to find a job good enough to support my family. That’s just the way it is.

  17. I just listend to my girlfriend get reemed by my ex and my son and her current lover due to m,y anything buit un-corrected mistakes. That i didnt take care of because they were to complicated in my drug only condition at the time . N ow once again im going in monday for possesion but the only bsellfish difference is im willing to be real about me.I hav e her ex all over my business urging me to relapse in violence thatg he has no idea amonhgst trhe fraud 20 years AGO THAT MY EX TOOK ADVANTAGE OF STILL CRIPPLING ME OF A SIMPLE LISCENSE . YEAH . IM READY AND WILLING TO GO STRAIGHT TO HELL AND PRISON FROM IGNORANT AND POMPOUS PEOPLE WHOM TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MY MISTAKES. Yes im those who feel that ora of a ‘different’ but that orta dosent neccesarely mean all bad . Let me explain yeaH I ENJOY GETTING HIGH AND ENJOY NO LONGER GETTING HIGH . wHEN A SITUATION COMES TO YOUR LIFE and property as a neighbor of mine you bet your ass ill except my life taken or anything else when it comes to yours and i simply likre you or you treated me like normal . Yeah im that one like many others we felons , addicts and diffgerent keep hold on strong ethics due to the deteriation of the common ones to keep a sanity and stronghold like no other so if i did youn wrong ill do double for what is left . Yeah i know sounds wierd guess what tell that to who let you down or moneyed their way to benefit cus i ll drop for your kids ill drop for youir acceptance and understanding and ill drop those who oppose what i have left in descentcy and love. Im all what we are felon , addict, and bad descions . So givin chance is more than you wqill benefit you all should experience a man or woman accepting someones open mindness and what is returned is non comprhensible due to extreme reversed intensions . For thoser silvered spooned fools theres nothing more real than a wayward person treated like a equall not to say theres many who use this to get over and use and trick. But those who can deciphere will see the light of a life yurning for normality . Example laker gamew is carried into howls and yelps into late night that the average we enjoy go overboard oad live moments till juiced out yes but this goes with self participation on unsellfishness wnen its yours and without anticipating reinburssmint. Kill m,e iof i engage in a situation not mine due to responsibility of a act of kindeness from you resultingh in my death kool . Get it cus you as a openminded individual showed more than my non exsistent father or part time mother or lregally worse ex . Tried service dui prevented that 3 times . And if anyone belives that felons have eqaulity in the work field slap yourself for the true meaning of playin thew fool to ones self is pathetically so wrong. I know ytou bknow dont be me and do it wrong . I can kill I can lie but if documented im less than but if not im awarded without proof of a humanity nor simple paper. that im who i am show as i showed time served as i show willingness to accept and join the society thay brands me less . F uck that im better than most smarter than you and thouigh i did several wrongs i still stand and debate my will aGAINST ANY EXPIERIENCE . for i dont see you if you dont see me . CATHOLIC PRIEST , PRESIDENT ,ACTORS ,ACTERESSES ,SINGERS.CONGRESSMAN , COUNCIL,TEACHERS,PARENTS,STRANGERS, all can arise a political or domestic involvment of wrong doing in all of us we have a memory of all so why am i crucified when not even bieng obligated to a responsibility as such but longer time worse conditionas and sorry cvourt fanatics but were guilty cus a simple supervised nbon existent formality tells me so p.o. So stop crying i agree just give me a jopb and no not a chance but a fror sure like the depth of your doubt .Depleat confidence with pajamas instead let me be amaqn with pants . Just a chance. Show you Show me witrhout pleading on knees please im a man indeed i want to lket you see.Known now as a G.Aadmirtted part of m,e indeed.

  18. every one makes a mistake once in a while. it doesn’t matter who you are. and when you do . you pay the price. it just seems to me we are just little mice running arround with a bunch of cats waiting for us to do somthing. so they can have somthing to do. yes i am a felon. i had my record expunged. went to coourt and every thing. years later. i was arrested and sent to prison for trespassing. did 10 months of a 20 month sentince. i lost my rights . wow. isn’t that cute. over the years sence then i have had a wide body bus that i converted into a motor home. it was destroyed. buy some people they were caught in the act.
    what did they get probation. i lost thousands of dollars. in that bus. never did get any thing back the people who did this they got a new house. no problem but when i ask the courts why . they said i was to blame. so go on.with your life but they didn’t lose their rights . so it seems to me . if you are an ex felon you are a slave to the system. just a number is all.
    so under the amendments all of them that they say are for us. remmber. the fourtennth amendment . read it and read it all what it says. and look at what they are saying by giveing us a life sentence.
    they can bring back slavery any time they want . right?

  19. Yes, we are felons. We have made mistakes, and we have paid the price the courts gave us. Most of us are drug felons. If given a chance, most of us would have grown out of the drug phase. As we get older and accept the responsibilities of families, bills, and jobs, we find there are more important things and drugs become an unfortunate personal history rather than a way of life.
    I believe that if you do the crime, you must do the time. But once that time is up you need to be reinstated to the status of full citizen once again. It is the only way to get back on your feet, on the right path, and make your way in the world. To be thrown back out into society without being a full citizen is a crime against morality…hmmmm…isn”t that what they say a drug crime is? Sounds hypocritical to me.
    We all stood before a judge who told us what we had to do, be it D.O.C., C.O.C., or just some probation. The judge knew your story. The judge determined if you were a hard core criminal or maybe someone that just lost his way. He set his sentence on you with his judgement and gave you a maximum sentence or a minimum sentence or something in-between. He judged each of us as an individual, and I respect the judge for that.
    It is the politicians in Washington, D.C. – people that have never seen you or heard your story, people that might have only been in your neighborhood once, just long enough to try to convince a few people to vote for them – that have passed down the life sentence to us. This is the job of the judge we stood before, not the job of the politicians. So why do they do it?
    The politicians want all of us to live in proverty and work for them. If we can’t vote, then we have no say in how much of our minimum wage jobs they take back for themselves in the form of taxes. If we can’t vote, then we have no say on how much of our children’s and grandchildren’s money they will spend today to ensure that their grandchildren will live the lives of royalty.
    It’s the politicians that grant more taxes to improve our school system and then proceed to give it to the teachers unions who then give it back to the politicians so they can get re-elected. The politicians don’t care about you or your children’s education. The politicians want an uneducated populace so we can’t figure out their plans.
    The politicians saying they have a war on crime must have sounded pretty good when they first sold it to the public, probably as a campaign speech to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals.
    Then they had a war on drugs. Another fine campaign speech. If they really wanted a war on drugs, they would have closed the Mexican border, but they didn’t. However, they sure can add to their list of felons quickly with it.
    If you keep up on the headlines today you will see the war on fat coming about. Healthcare is now fedral law. They say you will only pay a fine if you don’t have healthcare insurance. How many years do you suppose it will take before not carrying it will be a felony? Then they can add the people without it to this list of felons.
    Drunk drivers will soon be on this felons list as well.
    How about a war on hate crimes and hate speech? Despite their seeming concern about it, politicians encourage racism rather than truly discouraging it. Because if we are fighting amongst ourselves, we are not thinking about them.
    Little by little the politicians will get us all. Now you might argue that not all politicians are like this, and you would be right. It is not Republicans or Democrats, but they hide amongst these two parties, and they each blame the other for whatever the bad news of the day is.
    They do, however, expose themselves from time to time. They used to call themselves liberals. Today they call themselves progressives. Who knows what they will call themselves tommorow? I just call them communists. Because that’s what this is – communism.



Comments are closed.