The following post is from Ashbel T. Wall II, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. As a leader in the law enforcement community, Mr. Wall believes in restoring the right to vote to persons with past criminal convictions.
I have learned that last month the Kentucky House of Representatives passed H.B. 70, a bill that would allow Kentuckians to vote on a referendum this November to restore voting rights to former prisoners and probationers after they have completed their sentences. As Director of Corrections in a state where the re-enfranchisement of convicted felons upon release from prison was authorized through a voter referendum in 2008, I strongly support the restoration of voting rights.
Kentucky is one of four states in the country that permanently disenfranchise people with criminal convictions, even after they have completed their sentences. I am unaware of any credible evidence that denying voting rights to people after release from prison reduces crime. In fact, restoring the right to vote gives reason for those individuals to invest in our democracy. Bringing them into the political process supports their reintegration as productive and law-abiding members of their communities.
Once the criminal justice system has determined that someone is ready to return to the community, that person should receive both the responsibilities and the rights that come with full citizenship. Nearly every other state in the nation has reached this conclusion. I encourage Kentucky to do the same.