Q&A – Restoring Voting Rights For Florida’s Former Felons

Today’s entry - Recently, you talked about felons not repaying restitution. I have a comment. Unfortunately, I am a mother and grandmother of felons due to the opioid crisis. You need to understand that when felons get out of jail/prison it is almost impossible for them to get a job because they are felons. Most felons are homeless because they can’t get housing. So how can they repay restitution? We need to do more for felons. Rehabilitation is desperately needed for the prison system.

Bottom Line: You raise an important point. Employment for former felons is extremely challenging. In fact, former felons easily have the highest unemployment rate of any group studied. According to the most recent study by the Prison Policy Initiative, the unemployment rate for ex-offenders is around 25%, or more than six times higher than the average unemployment rate. The better news is that the unemployment rate does improve considerably with time. The unemployment rate based on length of time away from prison ranks at 31% on two years or less, 21% for two to three years, and 13% for more than four years. Of course, a 13% unemployment rate is still extraordinarily high. 

Also, it’s safe to assume that a former felon without the opportunity to obtain work might be a greater risk for relapsing. But this is where it becomes complicated. It’s understandable that many employers wouldn’t naturally prioritize someone with a criminal record for employment. There’s increased risk. According to federal records, 68% of prisoners are arrested again within three years of being released. Placing the trust of your business, employees, and customers in the hands of someone with a record is a serious consideration. Some jobs/careers might be better risks than others and some opportunities like in banking and finance aren’t an option. 

Is it that they can’t get a job and thus feel forced to resort to crime or is it generally the plan upon being released? On the plus side for employers there’s this, former felons have the lowest turnover rate of any group of workers. In other words, once someone with a record has been given an opportunity, they’re far less likely to leave the employer than the average person in the workforce. To your point, there’s a benefit to society if we do more to assist with job training and placement for ex-cons. When it comes to the conversation regarding voting rights, I think we’re talking about something different altogether. 

A former felon may have a hard time paying financial restitution for the reasons discussed, but that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored. There are consequences for committing crimes and to the extent, there’s a financial judgment and responsibility as part of one’s debt being repaid. That’s a consequence of committing the crime(s). Overlooking that responsibility does a disservice to victims and potentially taxpayers who’re left to have to account for the shortfall. Certainly, the best of all worlds would be to work on skills and job placement for those exciting jail. That would address both issues. 

Submit your questions using one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Photo by: RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

 

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