From today’s Charlotte Observer:
For the past 18 years, I’ve been executive director of Community Success Initiative (CSI), a nonprofit based in Raleigh that works on behalf of people who find themselves entangled in the criminal justice system.
I started this organization after a 5-year period of incarceration in the N.C. Department of Public Safety, after a series of poor choices. When I was released in 2005, I was placed on probation for eight years. At that time in North Carolina, your voting rights were taken away until you completed your incarceration plus any parole or probation time. It’s still that way today.
My probation ended in 2013, which meant I was unable to vote in the 2012 presidential election — the first-ever opportunity to elect an African American president. And I, an African American man, could not vote. The sadness I felt was profound, especially after having been raised in such a rich civic family tradition. My mom spent countless hours in the community on voter education and registration. My dad was the precinct chair for 50-plus years at the Robeson County Board of Elections — in the “Gaddy Precinct.”
I knew from an early age the importance and power of voting. My personal experiences and my work in the community over nearly two decades have allowed me to see up-close the toll that disenfranchisement can take on individuals and families. I’ve seen the impacts it also has on communities across this state.
In many cases people who remain on probation after having done their time lose hope. They feel like they have no power to effect change, that society has refused to allow them a second chance in life. It’s already difficult to access jobs, housing, education and human services. On top of that you’re not allowed to vote — even if you’re working, paying taxes and contributing to your community.
Read the complete story here.