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Opinion

Ex-Felons and Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

In the United States, 6.1 million of the population is ex-felons. We also currently have 2.25 million individuals in incarceration. When a solid percentage of our population exists within past or current punishment, one wonders what they are being reduced to, or simply this: are they still citizens?

 

On paper, they are, as they exist within the country. Yet they are forfeit of rights that one classifies to be the unalienable ones an American citizen gains through citizenship or birth. That is their right to vote, vocational employment, restrictions on relationships; with that they have lost the three principles of what “we the people” have: Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness.

 

The notion of a completely free citizen is idealized, of course. There are limits on an abiding citizen. However the limitations on an ex-felon can arguably reduce their state of being a citizen. One is the right to vote, a right to liberty we will all here. One could have committed a felony over two decades ago and still possess no right to determine who represents you at the local, state, or national level. It is claimed on their “morality.” That the committing of a felony in turn shows you are not morally fit to be a voter. Yet the classification of a felony has the glaring majority being drug offense, and many of those being the worst offense committed by individuals. From there, one should learn how most felons (charged for drug offenses) have that as their most glaring offense being a possession charge. A lapse in their rationality? Yes. A proof of no morality? No.

 

Now the focus is on ex-felons, as this is the question is after one does serve, are you returning to population as a citizen or less than? Legally, they are at loss of stance in the democratic machine that is our country. They also are at loss in their relationships. We can call this, say, the loss of the right to pursuit of happiness. This is forbidden, associating with other ex-felons outside their family. The cited immense conflict is how it does cause criminal skews on some same-sex couples in where they both have served time. One knows that a relationship, as long as it is consensual, is perfectly accessible to one as a citizen. Yet here comes restrictions unseen by the general population.

 

Next is the change in employment. One can see the American Dream as a citizen right. One can be what they desire, work from the bottom, right? Well, if one is charged as a felon, they lose rights to educate, practice law, practice medicine, or even in certain states handle money (that equates that they could not even work as a cashier). Some states have outright forbidden public work altogether for inmates. Also private companies have every right to not hire someone if they find they have a criminal record. Frankly, finding employment that equals a comfortable income is near impossible. With that creates the loop of illicit activity for many felons, but I digress. The fact is that it is a loss of the right to life. A comfortable life, a bearable one, a simple one.

 

Looking past their existence, dissecting what exactly we as citizens are in ways entitled to…there is this awareness that a felon has lost their title of “citizen.” Some say it is just. Yet there that abandonment is what causes the cycle. Possibly if one allows them the right to “citizen” as we all have, they may stop after that first incident and not go on to commit worse crimes. If an ex-felon, can remain that—a former—then there is growth for the society and acceptance of others. A step in the direction following other first world countries and living up to the notion that we are a place where any citizen has right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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