I worked in television and radio most of my life, a large chunk of my spare time was spent volunteering with nonprofits, particularly with puppies. These days I write, do stand-up comedy and still volunteer in the community. I donate money to a different charity every month, I sometimes give rides to elderly people at bus stops in the rain. I am library card holder in every city I’ve ever lived. I regularly have vodka and pistachios for dinner. I drive a fuel-efficient hatchback.
I’m also a convicted felon.
I lost my mother in 2007 and during the four years following her suicide, I became an unhinged version of my former self. I had always been a strong woman and I was now strong in my convictions that I no longer wanted to live. I spent the next two years emptying my bank account and writing bad checks to pay for my three hundred-dollar a day drug habit, which I hoped would eventually kill me. I didn’t die, but not for lack of trying. I was broken, I was a ghost with one purpose: find drugs, stop pain.
I eventually plead guilty to felony credit card abuse and was given two years probation withhold adjudication, which meant if I successfully completed the terms of my probation, I would not technically be convicted of the crime. If I screwed up, I could face up to two years in prison…of course, I screwed up, and was sentenced to one year behind bars.
Prison isn’t pretty, it’s a social-hierarchy-clusterfuck of the most annoying humans imaginable with nothing but time to try to garner dominance over a horde of equally annoying humans. It was an exercise in patience.
There was camaraderie, often there were violent fights over dominance or shower time, or a bag of chips. Most of the women were addicts, many had been in abusive relationships where finally defending themselves resulted in a conviction of assault, attempted murder or manslaughter. I saw mothers and daughters in neighboring pods. There were several nurses along with the rare case of an attorney or doctor, women, important members of their communities until addiction (or sometimes just plain greed) resulted in incarceration for whatever crime they committed to feed their addiction. All in all, the place was primarily overflowing with middle of the road criminals, thieves and uneducated serial-offenders.
A startling number of the inmates were diagnosed with mental illness.
Rarely did I encounter someone I felt was a threat to my personal safety, a majority of the women were enrolled in school or other classes, finally receiving the education otherwise inaccessible on the streets. Inmates were taking full advantage of the second chance they had been given, arming themselves with any and every resource available to ensure they would never again find themselves behind bars.
For me, I read, I wrote, I worked out. Then one day, it was over
Soon after my release, I called the state’s Elections Division and explained my position; that I had previously volunteered with campaigns and how important is was that I be able to vote again. Luckily, the state of Texas is one of several states which reinstate your voting rights upon completion of your sentence.
I was officially a convicted felon and a re-registered voter.
Once I moved back to Florida, I called the Division of Elections and found the state of Florida honors reinstated voting rights for felons moving to Florida from another state where they were incarcerated (also, you can eventually have your gun rights restored…).
Some people need to be locked behind bars in order to save them from themselves. I’m a prime example; good people end up in prison. A prison sentence in no way trumps their right and opportunity to correct mistakes, get an education, find a job and return to society with a little fucking dignity.
A large majority of released felons just want to give back, have their voices and votes heard. They want to use their mistakes and experiences behind bars to bring needed change in current policies.
To the politicians and uneducated fear mongers who claim restoring voting rights to felons will somehow conjure up the apocalypse – look at me, no, up here, in my face; I’m one of the millions of convicted felons who are registered to vote. I vote on the local and state level and in every election. I’m one of a shrinking number of citizens who give a shit and you want to take away my constitutional right to make decisions on which leaders are best for our city? Our state, our country? Fortunately, you can’t.
Scaring people into believing legions of murderous felons will be released and go about changing laws to promote and legalize insanity and crime is delusional…unless you’re referring to certain members of congress.
Those who murder and rape, the truly horrific demographic, are generally busy raping and murdering, they could give two shits about voting or government. In reality, they’re not banging down doors or lobbying to create anti-establishment or anti-law enforcement laws or any other nonsense.
Fuck outta here with that.
There’s a knowledge gained only from the experiences of those who’ve been incarcerated, we should convert a convict’s time behind bars into an asset.
A short list of actual, non-terrifying things convicted felons want to vote for:
- Reducing the amount of deaths and abuse in prisons.
- Lighter sentencing for nonviolent crimes in order to stop creating new offenders based on outdated laws.
- To stop costing taxpayers billions keep people behind bars rather than rehabilitating them.
- Ensuring services and opportunities for the majority of offenders reentering society who are ready to work and go to school, drastically lowering the number of those who re-offend.
- Replacing this Douchebucket: Tom Cotton
Any person who cares enough to want to vote, absolutely deserves the right to do so.
I’m a felon, I vote, I share my experiences, I educate voters and other ex-felons in an attempt to mend a country infected with greed, inequality and segregation. I couldn’t do these things had my rights not been restored.
You can find out which states allow felons to vote here