Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Prince from the Black Planet

Thank you Diane for your defense of free speech.

When I was little there was a TV show, Captain Video, which had on it an episode about the Prince from the Black Planet. On that planet, if you ever lost a contest, you became an Inferior ... for life. The Americans on the space ship knew better and showed him the light. But our treatment of ex-offenders is turning America into the Black Planet!

Millions of people are being labeled Inferiors .. for life. The outrage about letting Mr. Levasseur speak - some 30 years after his crimes - is part of this very-un-American tendency.

The American tradition is that when you commit a crime, you do your time, and then you get a chance at a fresh start. We're losing that, folks. CORI laws, off-limit occupations, security checks, lifetime sex-offender registries and the like make it very hard to start over.

During the city election campaign I talked with many young men who said some version of "I can't vote, I'm a felon." So many that we have to think someone must be telling them this.

This is wrong. First of all, once you're out of prison you are an "ex-felon", not a "felon". You are not a statistic or a probability or a risk, you are a free person ready to try again to make a life for yourself. Second, once you are out you have the absolute right in Massachusetts to register, vote and participate in public life.

And to speak at a University if people want to hear your story!
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