Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Restoring Dignity to Former Felons


By Homer S. White

State Senator Damon Thayer is preventing a proposed amendment to the Kentucky constitution that would restore voting rights to former felons from moving forward. Furthermore, nine of the 12 members of Thayer’s State and Local Government Committee say that they intend to support the measure, but Thayer still refuses to let it be heard. Surely this is an important proposal that merits full consideration (the proposal passed the House last month with strong bipartisan support).

Nearly 129,000 former felons in Kentucky, who have served their prison time, probation and parole, have not been able to navigate the existing pardoning process which requires an individual pardon from the governor. Tens of thousands more Kentuckians will be in the same situation in coming years. Conversations with former felons indicate that most have not heard about the pardon process and don't know how to initiate it. Even officials in the Kentucky justice system and the state's county clerk offices often don't know how to help people through the process.

We have to bear in mind that persons recently released from prison are at a particularly vulnerable point in their lives. If we want them to re-engage in society in a positive way, we should provide them with every possible encouragement to do so, and work to remove hurdles that stand in their way.