Barriers to reintegration into society after prison

Jay Jordan:

I got you made it – let’s upgrade.

I made a plea deal; 98% – my research director is in the audience, so you could – so, 95% – let’s say over 90% of people with criminal records like me, we’ve made a plea deal, right? not ? So we sat down. And we committed the crime. We’re literally saying, OK, I’ll do my time. We have an agreement.

Most people take a plea deal, don’t they? Now, on this plea deal, it’s a plea sheet. And they tell you how long you are going to do. I am seven years old. They tell you if you have strikes. I had two strikes. And tell you, like, your restrictions. You cannot own a gun. And that’s it, right? You cannot own a gun. You cannot get close to the victim.

There are certain things they tell you. Nowhere do they tell you about these collateral consequences that are triggered after your release. So, something out of those 40,000 legal restrictions, 50 percent is job related. Most of them are lifetime bans.

So not only can I – I can’t access that part of the economy, but I can never adopt a child. I will never be able to adopt a child. I have a 1 year old and a 3 year old. I can’t volunteer at their children’s school. They have had a shortage of volunteers due to COVID.

When I got the volunteer form, that big question, have you ever been convicted of a felony? I can’t even volunteer at my own children’s school. We just bought a house. I can’t – I can’t even join the HOA, can I? I will never be able to coach my son’s little league team. I can’t take the bus with him for school trips.

So it’s not just about the economy, is it? It is about my humanity. It is about the humanity of the people. At some point we have to say, is it just about ticking a box and getting people back to work? I have a job. But it is about my humanity.

But I like the term returning citizens. I love Desmond Meade. Kudos to Desmond Meade and the entire Florida Rights Restoration Coalition who coined the term. But how are we even citizens? How am I a full citizen if I am excluded from the economy, excluded from my society and excluded from my child’s life?

It is about the humanity and the soul of this country. It’s not just about reintegration.

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