For All Of Us

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.

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