When it comes to Amendment 4, which needs 60 percent voter approval to pass, let’s make this as appealing as we can. This is not just about ex-felons who have met all the terms and conditions of their sentencing. This is about ALL OF US. The recidivism rate for ex-felons who remain disenfranchised is dramatically higher than for those who have had their rights restored. And right now, those disenfranchised ex-felons number about 1.7 million. Moreover, minorities are disproportionately impacted.
This is in everyone’s self-interest, because society at large is inevitably and adversely impacted. I’m tempted to say “enlightened self-interest,” but the usual right-wing opposition would probably deride that as “elitist.”
It’s also fiscally smart. Since ex-felons who have been reintegrated into society are much less likely to re-enter the criminal justice system, the money saved is no pittance. In fact, the Washington Economic Group has estimated the savings at more than $300 million. There’s also an obvious upside to ex-felons’ increased job earnings and taxes paid.
Last–but only for pragmatic, referendum-passage purposes–is that Amendment 4 embodies what is simply fair to those–excluding those convicted of sexual and/or violent crimes–who deserve to be reinstated into society. It’s only fair to those who have fulfilled their end of the sentencing obligation to get a second chance. And it’s only fair to the rest of us too.