Sunday, May 8, 2016

"Paid Their Debt" Means Just That

The legality of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's decision to restore some rights to convicted felons en masse remains to be decided.

It is amusing, however, to hear and read the outcry from conservatives in the political area and the news publishing business.

Virginia’s Constitution has prohibited felons from voting since the Civil War; the restrictions were expanded in 1902, as part of a package that included poll taxes and literacy tests - a blatant means of silencing poor minority voters, the majority of them black, many of whom had felony convictions due to a legal system that was blatantly biased against them. We're talking about the South, after all.

It's time to toss out Jim Crow thinking.

Republicans only decry McAuliffe's action because it will empower more black voters, and blacks have historically gravitated towards Democratic candidates. I don't think the issues of jury duty or running for public office really concern them that much, if at all. That's just posturing to mask the root issue of their anger.

Over the past two decades, over 20 states have voted to ease restrictions on felons who have completed their sentences. Virginia is hardly a new case when it comes to felon's rights, nor is the Governor's approach to restoring them.

"Paid their debt to society" does not mean "paid their debt but we'll keep punishing them afterward".

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