Archbishop urges passage of voter restoration bill for felons

| April 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt is urging state legislators to pass a bill that would restore a convicted felon’s right to vote after incarceration.

In an April 22 letter to legislators, he said doing so would help offenders renew their lives, reduce recidivism, conserve public resources and “help foster the political participation of minority communities disproportionately affected by the current criminal justice system.”

“The inability to vote and have a say in decisions that affect their family is another stumbling block faced by those trying to reconcile themselves to the community,” he wrote.

UPDATE: The voting rights restoration legislation (H.F. 342/S.F. 355) passed the Senate April 23 as part of the judiciary omnibus bill. It is also in the senate elections omnibus bill. Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, said that despite broad and bipartisan support, the bill was not given a hearing in the House. But there is still time for it to be enacted because it is in two omnibus bills.

 Related profile: Legislation aims to restore felons’ right to vote

As president of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, Archbishop Nienstedt said that while people who have committed crimes should be held accountable and pay their debt to society, communities need to work to reintegrate offenders, “who are often banished to the margins of society.”

“We should seek responses to crime that do not simply punish, but also rehabilitate, heal and restore,” he wrote, adding that upon felons’ release, the justice system concluded that they should be living in the community and rebuilding their lives, and shouldn’t be punished merely “for punishment’s sake.”

“Pope Francis has said that where there is no mercy, there is no justice,” he continued. “Offering a second chance to those who have offended serves the common good of all Minnesotans.”

To support passage of H.F. 342 and S.F. 355, the Minnesota Catholic Conference is participating in Restore the Vote Day of Action at the Capitol on April 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in St. Paul.

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