Imagine committing a crime, serving your time in prison and being released for time served. Now, you think your problems are over, but your problems are only beginning.
Erika L. Wood, writing for The New York Times, reveals the difficulties that arise upon leaving prison and re-joining the community. Wood takes one issue, voting, and reveals how difficult life can be for returning citizens.
Reporting on the issue on voting for ex-offenders, Wood writes:
Next November more than 5 million Americans will not be allowed to vote because of a criminal conviction in their past. Nearly 4 million of these people are not in prison, yet they remain disenfranchised for years, often for decades and sometimes for life.
Having a criminal background makes life difficult upon release from prison. For repentant ex-offender’s, returning to society will mean that for the rest of their lives they will endure the “invisible punishments of their convictions” — restrictions on employment, housing, coaching sports and voting rights. Justice Fellowship understands that ex-offenders encounter these roadblocks daily – and one’s ability to become a peaceful, contributing member of the community is far more difficult when these roadblocks are in place.
Our goal should be to minimize the challenges offenders face as they reenter society — without compromising public safety. Granting clemency and pardons should become a more common practice for government leaders. The Bible shows us what forgiveness looks like. Government leaders do well to take seriously their responsibility to consider situations that warrant forgiveness. Removing punitive civil restrictions from ex-offenders can strengthen the quality of life for that former prisoner and the surrounding community. Once this happens, true justice is demonstrated.