A recent commentary writer bases his case for depriving felons of the basic right to vote on the story of a brutal murder committed 21 years ago by a white supremacist (“Should prisoners have the right to vote?” May 10). It is a compelling argument when you hand-pick your felon, but the larger issue is restoring full citizenship to men and women who have served their sentences.
Life after prison is hard. The norms of prison life — how to stay safe and be respected — are wildly different from the norms of life on the outside. Most, if not all, released felons struggle to find work and a place to live; many are challenged with various forms of mental illness. Incarceration is punishment enough.
We should be making it easier for released felons to succeed, not harder.
The Bard Prison Initiative focuses on human potential for growth and change through education. It is that enormous potential of both incarcerated and released felons that gets lost when we fail to acknowledge them as full citizens and as voting members of our community.
We should create a release ceremony similar to the ceremony new U.S. citizens receive before a judge. Felons would review similar questions detailing the requirements and responsibilities of full citizenship, pass the same test and, upon release, appear before a judge to pledge their allegiance to the United States of America and its laws and thus regain all the rights and duties of citizenship, including the right to vote. A felon’s release should be ceremonial and celebratory, a recognition of their re-entry into the free world.
Expecting released felons to do well would be more effective than treating them like permanent criminals. The recidivism rate in the U.S. is already extremely high. Treating men and women as fully human won’t make it worse. Let’s give freedom a chance.
Kathleen Coskran, Minneapolis
Don’t let distance from the border sow complacency over the issue
12,500 young people are currently held in migrant youth shelters overseen by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. This figure includes both children arriving as unaccompanied minors and children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under the family-separation policy. The shelters operate privately, funded by Department of Health and Human Services dollars.
Despite government funding, shelters often lack sufficient education, recreation, legal and health services. Some have failed to use background checks to screen staff. Worst of all, children have endured physical and sexual abuse by staff at some shelters.
Children need education. Children need recreation. Children who are migrants desperately need access to proper services. Children need a loving home environment, free from abuse. Migrant youth shelters simply cannot adequately meet children’s needs.
Children belong with their families. When their parents or immediate family cannot provide care for them, they must be united as quickly as possible with appropriate sponsors. Dumping thousands of children into poorly run shelters is not the answer.
As Minnesotans, our geographical distance from the border may allow us to feel detached and even complacent. But when the well-being of children is at stake, and when our tax dollars are supporting an unjust situation, we need to pay attention. We must demand immediately improved shelters, a more streamlined reunification system, and, for a true solution, comprehensive immigration reform.
Katie Lovrien, St. Paul
OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
If not for his presidential office, Trump would have been charged
This week, more than 370 ex-prosecutors who have worked in both Democratic and Republican administrations signed a letter saying that President Donald Trump would’ve been charged with obstructing justice if it weren’t for the office he held (“Ex-prosecutors: Trump would’ve faced charges,” May 7). Three hundred and seventy.
How many more alarms need to be raised before we get our Republican politicians to wake up? The excuse that anyone speaking negatively of Trump simply doesn’t like him has to stop. The idea that this “deep state” is out for a coup against him needs to stop. When distinguished former officials are speaking out against the president, especially those in the Republican Party, we need to put the people ahead of the party. I hope, one day, Republicans will either make the right choice for the country or come to understand that they made some of the worst political decisions to not hold the president to the standards this office and country deserve.
Jack Parker, Minneapolis
Give credit to Trump — it’s due
I’ve seen more than one Democratic pundit asked about the economy. They state that it started under former President Barack Obama, implying that he is responsible for where we are today. Technically, it did start under Obama. But that doesn’t tell the full story. Yes, the economy grew under Obama, but at a relative snail’s pace (barely at a 2% annual average).
Now we get 3% growth and record-low unemployment, along with more job openings than job seekers, wages up and approximately 30% increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average since the 2016 election and Obama gets the credit? I don’t think so.
I did some checking on the Dow numbers. The day after the 2016 election, it was up about 300 points. A month later it was up 1,000 more. Did Obama make some policy changes, or did Congress pass new legislation? No, someone who promised to lower taxes and reduce regulation got elected and the market liked what was coming — a more business-friendly environment. Now more than two years later it is still growing. Regardless of the person in charge, let’s give credit where credit is due.
Do both administrations deserve some? Yes. But, in my opinion, the above argument gives more credit to the current one. Just ask the business world instead of the Democratic pundits.
P. Alan Goodwin, Brooklyn Park
SEX ABUSE CRISIS
Vatican’s new abuse law falls short
As a lifelong practicing Catholic, I am disappointed that after years of deliberation, the Vatican still failed to effectively address rampant worldwide sexual abuse perpetrated by its clergy, which has bankrupted my local archdiocese and many others (“Pope lays out first global rules for reporting abuse,” May 10). Pope Francis’ new law, which requires reporting abuse within the confines of its leadership but not to the police, will only perpetrate the secrecy that allows abuse to continue unabated.
A lifelong friend recently confided that years ago, his son was an altar boy and was sexually harassed by the parish priest. The family left the Catholic Church and the school, never to return.
The abuse scandal’s damaging consequences continue and have likely led to a dwindling membership and financial support as evidenced by the consolidation and closing of churches and schools and severe priest and nun shortages.
The only common-sense solution is for parents, seminarians and women to immediately report any semblance of abuse to their local police departments and seek legal recourse to remedy criminal behaviors and incarcerate the perpetrators, saving others the heartache. We have lost trust in our church leaders, a distraction from the teachings we have tried to emulate. Much more work is required to get this right!
Michael Tillemans, Minneapolis