As a volunteer with the RISE Program (Reintegration Initiative for Safety and Empowerment), I work directly with Iowans with a felony conviction seeking to make application for the restoration of citizenship/voting rights. I see and hear the impact of felony convictions and the loss of citizenship rights every day.
It affects an individual’s sense of self-worth (and opportunities for housing and employment), a family’s sense of civic involvement and whole communities as a large number of citizens are barred from active participation in our democracy. I am greatly encouraged by Gov. Kim Reynolds’ words urging the passage of an amendment to the Iowa Constitution restoring rights to Iowa citizens who have completed their sentence following a felony conviction. I am also encouraged by the tone she is setting for the debate.
The restoration of rights should not be debated primarily as a political issue. It should not be debated primarily as a criminal justice issue. The restoration of rights is a matter of human dignity and a matter of civic restoration. Without restoration, Iowans with a felony conviction are permanently relegated to second-class citizenship, and our collective social life is thereby diminished.
It is my hope the Legislature and citizens will recognize the personal and community benefits of citizenship restoration by voting to amend the Iowa Constitution, automatically restoring rights to Iowans with a felony conviction.
Rev. Gary Sneller