The following post is from Rev. H. David Schuringa, President of the Crossroad Bible Institute. As a leader in the religious community, Rev. Schuringa believes in restoring the right to vote to persons with past criminal convictions.
Recently, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed H.B. 70, a bill that would give Kentucky voters a chance to decide whether to restore voting rights to former prisoners and probationers who have completed their sentences. This bill would repeal an antiquated Kentucky law that disenfranchises people with past criminal convictions, even after they’ve served their time. The Senate should follow the House’s lead and pass this bill.
I am President of Crossroad Bible Institute, a faith-based reentry organization which seeks to equip the church to disciple people in prison with the Word of God. It is a personal program designed to help incarcerated people grow dramatically in a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, preparing them for successful reentry upon release. I support H.B. 70 because Scriptures enjoin us to “be a voice for the voiceless” and to “speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Prov. 31:8–9). These Scriptures are held sacred by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. What better way to be a voice for the voiceless than to give them a voice? Moreover, like Moses and David from these traditions, I know that people can be redeemed. Redemption is a universal concept that resonates across all religions. Yet for redemption to impact the nation, people must be restored to their communities, and full restoration requires an opportunity to vote.
Kentucky is currently one of just four states that permanently disenfranchises people with criminal convictions—even after their release from prison — unless the Governor pardons them. Kentucky now has an opportunity to redeem itself from this archaic law.
No doubt, some think the criminal justice system is too lenient on offenders. But such people should recognize that when the criminal justice system has deemed someone ready to rejoin the community, the most prudent course of action is to make reentry successful. Restoring the right to vote to people who have paid their debt to society will do much more for their successful reentry — and the health and safety of the community as a whole — than will continued shunning and stigmatization. It will encourage them to invest themselves in their communities productively — as workers, neighbors, and family members — where, with voting rights restored, they can have a meaningful voice and stake in society.
The State Senate should pass this bill.