Letter to the Editor: Give Floridians a Second Chance

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Everybody deserves a second chance. Particularly when they have done their time. Yet Florida is one of only three states (FL, KY, IA) that have a lifetime ban on voting for ex-felons, even those with minor convictions. After felons have served their time in Florida they are still denied the right to vote when they leave prison.

They not only lose their voting rights, but also too often their ability to get good jobs, licenses for professions such as barbers, cosmetologists, or commercial drivers, and the hope of being successfully reintegrated into society as meaningful contributors. Let’s say Yes to Second Chances, and allow people convicted of a felony to have their voting rights restored after they have completed their prison term, parole and probation.

It is imperative to give people that have paid their debt to society a Second Chance. Why do we keep punishing them? Why are we so vindictive? We are denying them their humanity, their inherent worth and dignity. They have done what we asked from them; now we must uphold our part and restore their right to vote.

That is the just thing to do.

Our freedom carries an imperative responsibility for us as free people to extend that freedom to all people, including former felons. They are human beings. They must be restored to society and given the chance to live productive lives.

Too many people are being imprisoned for minor offenses. Mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline have become chronic problems in our society that are both unjust and economically unjustifiable. If we restore voting rights to those who have completed minor felony convictions, we can help them become responsible citizens, create safer communities, and save taxpayer money by keeping them from returning to prison.

We cannot sit idly by; we have a mandate to address the systemic problems of society.

As Thich Nhat Hanh says, our faith is our deeds not our creeds. The beginning of our journey is the realization that former felons need their voting rights restored. However, our journey grows only with action. Our only true possessions are our actions. Our journey is shown and our salvation is found in our daily actions, not in proclamations.

James Luther Adams said that our journey “is futile and sterile unless it has direct and effective bearing upon the problems of society.” He advocated for unswerving social action. Adams believed that society is not transformed by mere change in attitude, but by the mobilization of social power.

This is a call to all people of faith and good will: let’s stand together on the side of love. Let’s say YES to Second Chances.

Let’s help gather petitions for the Voting Restoration Amendment http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/64388-1.pdf to make sure this important constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in November, 2016 so all voters can speak out for Second Chances.

Go to http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/64388-1.pdf and sign the petition. Please return it to the address at the bottom. Encourage others to sign. If enough people sign the petition the constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in November 2016. Say yes and give felons who have done their time a second chance; give them back their right to vote. They have paid their debt to society.

Steve Jens-Rochow

Board Member, Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida

Vice President, Unitarian Universalist South East Florida Cluster


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