Judge Renders Convicted Felon “Infamous” #suffrage #therighttovote #electiondisenfranchisement
July 26, 2014
Until yesterday, I had never heard of an “infamous” verdict, making an imprisoned person, even after he had served time, rehabilitated, and re-acclimated into the world, losing the right to vote for the rest of his life. Section 7 of Article VII of the Constitution reads: “The General Assembly shall pass laws excluding from the right of suffrage persons of infamous crimes.”
An infamous crime according to the Dictionary of Modern Legal Terminology says that one for which part of the penalty is infamy, i.e., being declared ineligible to serve on a jury, hold public office, or testify. However, though these consequences were supposed to be abolished in the 19th century, these verdicts are still being passed down. The result could be that a person who has gone back to college after prison, gotten a degree to help others rehabilitate from prison life for 20 years, and is sober, still can’t vote. As a gay person who understands being disenfranchised, this makes no sense to me at all. No amount of inquires to the court, apparently, can change this judge’s verdict, even though his crime was as menial as theft from drug abuse. I guess, I could understand this verdict if he had committed murder or treason. But small-time theft, because he was mentally ill from drugs? I’m not buying it.
[soliloquy id=”undefined”]The dictionary not only shares the above definition, but describes the infamous as meaning well known for some bad quality or deed; wicked and abominable. This term brings me to a spiritual word called redemption. I have known many people I didn’t believe could change, who actually did change. I have seen in my practice many lovely people, who come to me desiring change from, sometimes, horrible thoughts and actions, who make considerable changes. The point is here that people, if they truly desire to change, can often make it to a place of recovery, especially if they hold fast to one important idea: no matter what he or she does, he is still a creation of God, made in the image of divine, purposely given the opportunity to learn lessons on earth, not be judged by them for eternity.
I have a family member I want no part of because of addiction. I never said I didn’t love him. I simply know that my boundaries had to change until full recovery takes place. How will I know if redemption happens? I guess, time and his deeds will tell. Maybe, the point here is that the only person we really have to convince we have changed is ourselves. I know by working with people in this situation that, long after their misdeeds, most still have a terrible self-esteem and think they deserve no good in life.
Is this really what we want for someone who has served a sentence, rehabilitated, and has made it his/her life’s mission to rectify a problem that resulted from drug abuse, which in my estimation is an illness?
I err on the side of forgiveness. To forgive completely means to wipe away all of the past and begin anew. I don’t know many people who can actually make this major switch in mind. I am acquainted with one person, in particular, who I will always hold at arm’s distance, no matter how much she claims she has changed. I want to take her back into my heart, but I simply can’t trust her after being hurt so many times. I, also, had a best friend for 8 years who had been in a program for addiction for 20 years and relapsed 2 years ago. I haven’t heard from her since. No calls. No explanation. Only two years later did I find out the reason for her disappearance. So, maybe forgiveness can happen for me, but relationship may never be regained. This, however, doesn’t mean that this accused person or addict can’t find new friends and establish better boundaries in the future. I’m just not going to be one of those friends.
I have seen relapses happen over and over again. I don’t know what makes a person break, but sometimes, he or she can’t deal with the challenges of every day life and goes back to numbing the mind with drugs or alcohol. I don’t like it, but with addiction, unless you are working the steps of rehabilitation, daily, the chance of falling off of the wagon always exists. Maybe this is why an infamous verdict has to be passed down, occasionally. If one’s actions, at one point in his life, can cause such a disenfranchisement, perhaps living with the verdict daily will keep this person on the straight and narrow, living in the present, with a new and redeemed life. This is certainly my hope.
If you live with a tainted past, I want you to know that even though people you have hurt may not be able to forgive you completely, this doesn’t mean that you are inherently bad or that God doesn’t see you as completely pure. Other people’s judgment has nothing to do with you, really. Your responsibility, if you have already asked for forgiveness, is to prove to yourself that you are made of good, by always seeking a better life, better habits, and different friends for yourself. Though you may fall, and almost all of us do, get back up and try again!
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