We like to think that in the United States, all people have rights and equality; all people have a voice. However, there are 65 million Americans and 60,000 D.C. natives that would beg to differ. These are the people that struggle under the life-long stigma that comes with the label “ex-convict.”
Ex-prisoners have paid their debts for their wrongdoings and have been deemed fit for re-entry into society. At the time of their release, ex-prisoners should be allowed all of their human rights, including the right to vote, the right to work and the right to access affordable housing.
People with criminal records should be able to turn their lives around without being denied the resources needed to do so. In the U.S., many employers have policies that flat-out refuse to hire anyone with a criminal record, no matter how qualified a person is for the position. Gainful employment is a necessity for an ex-prisoner trying to get back on his or her feet; it helps prevent recidivism by providing legal income and giving a person a productive role in society. But because of discriminatory hiring practices, many ex-prisoners are forced to resort back to criminal activities to support themselves and their families.
Discriminatory practices also keep people with criminal records from being accepted into public low-income housing, forcing many ex-prisoners to sleep on the couches and floors of relatives or friends, and landing many on the streets. In many states, barriers are also in place that it more difficult for ex-offenders to obtain driver’s licenses, to register to vote and to gain access to other public services like healthcare and education.
For many, life after prison is a constant battle for survival, so it’s no wonder the national recidivism rate in the United States is over 40%. With no resources or support, many of those who don’t end up returning to prison are forced into poverty and homelessness. Here at CCC, we believe that people coming out of prison should be able to reintegrate into society and succeed. These ex-prisoners should be able to vote, work, support their families, have access to public services and live fulfilling lives. They should be given the chance to live a normal life again, absent of discrimination.