Having had hands-on volunteer arts and mental health volunteer experience for the past 5 years, I have come to passionately support this proposed change to the Florida constitution. Twenty years ago, I founded the Journey Daybook, a registered Florida non-profit collaborative. We work one-on-one with select small groups of women inmates at the Florida Women’s Reception Center, in Lowell, near Ocala FL. We teach these women how to access their intuition and express their feelings through written, illustrated journals. I have had a unique opportunity to know many of these women on a personal basis as friends and to understand the harsh reality and heartfelt healing and redemption that that can result after a long prison sentence.
Recently, there has been much in the media describing the problems and challenges of incarcerated adults who adapt to recreating their lives outside prison. Among these spokespersons are Susan Burton, author of Becoming Ms Burton: from Prison to Recovery. She received a CNN Hero of the Year award in 2010. Recently, there have been several other books and documentaries made on this subject. Just Google the subject of “Prison Reform” and you will find a wealth of material.
Florida is one of only 3 states that does not allow the restoration of voting rights after incarceration for crimes except murder and sexual assault. The other states are Kentucky and Ohio. The Commonwealth of Virginia restored voting rights to ex-felons in 2016. Isn’t it time that Florida become a state that shows compassion and opportunity to our citizens who have returned to society after incarceration?
The Florida Voting Rights Restoration Initiative (Initiative #14-01) may appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot. This measure would restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon completion of their sentences.
I hope that you will understand the need for adopting this ballot initiative. Thank you for the opportunity to present my concern for the restoration of rights for those of us who have already paid our debt to society.