safety net


There has been much going on in the background which fills me with hope.

I have not reported on the details so far, but both Derek and Alex King have left Jacksonville (and the state of Florida) to pursue other prospects. All that I can say is that each is in a major city on the West and East Coasts, and that each is experiencing uneven success in establishing a new life.

I am particularly encouraged by Derek’s experience in which he has secured a promising job, expanded his network of contacts, and has managed to find temporary housing. Beyond those facts, I am unwilling to compromise his privacy.

Alex has been having a tougher time making his way in the outer world. Released from prison only six months ago (compared to Derek’s five years), he is still learning to face the reality of life on the outside: that anyone with a felony conviction in his past is confronted with a combination of restrictions coming from the state and private sectors that make survival by any means but crime nearly impossible.

In the state of Florida, a past felony conviction usually means loss of civil rights, including the right to vote, even after completion of all the terms and conditions of the sentence. Loss of civil rights takes away not only the right to vote, but also the right to hold public office, to serve on a jury, and to hold certain types of state job licenses.

A person with a past felony conviction loses those civil rights permanently until and unless he or she is granted restoration of civil rights by the Board of Executive Clemency. The Board of Executive Clemency is comprised of the Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The process of restoring one’s rights is lengthy, arduous, and extremely restrictive for persons convicted of murder, even at age 12 or 13. The process is so difficult, it makes a mockery of the notion of corrections.

Landlords make it impossible for felons to appear on leases. Employers make it impossible to be hired for worthwhile jobs. Insurance companies make it impossible for landlords and employers who are willing to give felons a second chance to be covered under most policies. A felon who wants to be honest about his or her past is forced to lie, to live as an outlaw, in order to live a successful life.

Life in the present economy is difficult and discouraging enough for most young people without felony records; life for someone with a felony as part of their baggage is nearly impossible. Derek lived at Estrella Vista for the first six months of his freedom. On his second day here he was offered a job, and he was able to hike for miles to get his head together and go into the world with the belief that all was not lost in his future. It was a good way to begin a difficult journey.

Despite the fact that he has known it was available to him as a kind of “safety net,” Alex has not yet availed himself of Estrella Vista’s refuge. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. Both brothers call at least twice a week, as if they are checking to see that the net is still in place and ready to catch them if they should need it.


Groove of the Day

Sorry, my speaker unit went out yesterday; so until I get another one, I cannot make my selection.


2 Responses to “safety net”

  1. 1 Bob H
    June 3, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    The automatic imposition of follow-on consequences for felonies are themselves a cruel punishment. Unfortunately they are not unusual. If you cannot get housing or employment without being very very lucky, the barriers to making a good life are unfairly stacked. I hold this to be true for all those convicted, not just juveniles. While there are some protections for juveniles, there are far fewer for juveniles when convicted as adults. And in many cases, the free flow of information prevents a record being effectively sealed.
    I do not agree with the European Court ruling last month that people can demand that search engines mask search results that are “outdated” because it will allow too many bad sorts to hide, but it shows a sensitivity to people being allowed to get on with building a good life after release.

  2. June 4, 2014 at 3:43 am

    I agree with the consideration that impose automatically, for the rest of their lives, restrictions on people convinced with an offense may be a cruel punishment. The cruelty resides in the automaticity and in the lenght of these restrictions, their indiscriminate imposition to all offender – petty offender or great criminals – not in all of the restrictions themselves. After a certain time, ex-offenders should have the possibility to recover part or all of their rights. If lifelong restrictions seems justified in some cases like, example given, the ban from convinced child abuser from children-related employments, many other restrictions are unjust if they persist with the time, like the lose of the voter rights.
    Nobody, except law enforcement forces and judicial autorities, should have an access to judicial records of a person. Ex-detainees should not be automaticly excluded from social housing or social help for the only reason they have a judicial record. Employers or landlords should not have to coerce a candidate to lie about his past in the intent to obtain a non-sensitive job or a housing by asking him if he/she has a judicial record. Employers should have to ask to a Court office and not to the candidate himself if a person is eligible for a sensitive job and the list of sensitive employments should be as reduced as possible.
    If restrictions were lesser and adapted to each individual case, the way to rebuild an honest and productive life would not be so harsh and the recidivism rate would also be lesser

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