Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Right to Vote: Second Class Citizenship

Part One in an ogoing series on felon disenfranchisement: Second Class Citizenship In terms of 'punishment' felons face more difficulty regaining their right to vote than finding employment, housing, and admission to educational programs once they leave the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI) or any other like facility. In other words, the Rhode Island correctional system deems these offenders eligible to return to normal society but disallow their utilization of a basic right-the right to vote. The reality that eighty-six percent of convicted felons are living in Rhode Island communities, are suffering a political death as a result of their crimes. Let’s take the example of Andres Idarraga. He was an Honors student at Moses Brown but along the way went down a path that saw him get caught up in the drug life. After serving six and a half years in the ACI, he will now serve 3 more years of parole and 27 years of probation.[1] Since being released he has enrolled into the University of Rhode Island and is running a legitimate business with other members of his community. Despite his accomplishments in reintegrating back into our community, he will not be able to vote for the next thirty years under current Rhode Island law. His is but one example of the 13,300 citizens living in our community, trying to make a change in their lives, but denied a basic right decade after decade. Sol Rodriguez, Director of the Rhode Island Family Life Center, declares "We're asking these people to come back into society and get a job, yet we're taking away their right to be a good citizen. Many people […] are trying to keep their life together. They pay taxes, yet they can't vote."[2] How can we expect to integrate these citizens if we continue to deny them these rights? Instead, we must support legislation that restores the right to vote to felons on probation or parole so that we can, without hypocrisy, claim that Rhode Island does not harbor, perpetuate, or propagate second class citizenship. [1] Ziner, Karen Lee: Providence Journal: State Law Keeps Felons’ Voting Rights in Check (2 November 2004). [2] ibid. For more information on the RI Right to Vote Campaign, please visit their website: link.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home