Last week’s lead story, in this newspaper, made for fascinating reading.
I wanted to know even more.
It was about a Corbin woman who received, rather unexpectedly, a pardon for her past crimes from Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.
She’d prayed and hoped, but was never sure it would happen. I thought it was amusing that when Bevin called her, personally, to let her know she was being pardoned … she thought it was some kind of joke or a prank.
Over the course of my years here at the newspaper, I’ve done numerous stories about local people who received rare and unique blessing of a gubernatorial pardon. It has a redemptive quality to it that little else can match. Totally wipes the slate clean. Gives people a fresh new chance at life.
Sometimes, I think they are maybe a little too rare.
Lives are often derailed by youthful indiscretions. The last two stories we’ve published about local folks getting pardons, it’s for felony drug offenses. In each case, they showed the diligence and commitment necessary to beat their drug habits and stay clean. They atoned for their sins and served their time.
They built respectable families and social networks.
And in the job market, they did the best they could.
It’s no secret that a felony conviction on your record is often the kiss of death with an employer. It creates a hard ceiling that you literally cannot break through. In some professions, even if you have the education necessary to perform certain tasks and move up in your chosen field, you cannot. That black mark on your record prevents it.
There’s some cruel hypocrisy, I think, in the fact that we (society) ask that felons turn their lives around and become productive, law-abiding citizens, yet when they try to do so we beat them down. We prevent them from voting. We deny them things, like a hunting license or the right to own a firearm. And we make it incredibly difficult for them to get true, rewarding, gainful employment. Little wonder so many give up.
This is a shame. You don’t help people by permanently disenfranchising them.
Perhaps Kentucky should consider measures, like the one voters in Florida just approved, that restores voting rights to convicted felons. Maybe a system should be put in place that removes some felony convictions from your record, automatically, if you complete a rigorous set of steps to attain that goal.
The hope that a pardon represents is a powerful motivator and reward for many people. Maybe we ought to make that sense of life-altering relief something more people can experience.