Letters to the Editor

Restitution before restoring rights is misguided

Next week, the Legislature will return to the issue of felon voting rights. It looks like the issue is an insistence that getting those rights back can only come after a former inmate has paid all victim restitution. As the victim of a First Degree theft, with a current restitution order, I think that that position is shortsighted and misguided.

My first goal, in my particular case, is that it never happen again. Many studies find that this is the primary response from many crime victims: more than punishment, we want to minimize the chance that other people suffer in the same way. Yes, punishment does sometimes deter, but the main factor in reducing recidivism is the person’s reincorporation into society — do they have job, a safe place to stay, a supportive network. And are they active in improving their community?

Voting and serving on juries is exactly the kind of activity that most protects society in the future. It should not be put off potentially for years while they make small monthly payments on huge obligations. I would much prefer that the person who stole from me and my friends could vote while still paying restitution.

John Whiston

Iowa City

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