Monday, July 15, 2002

Felons United

There haven't been too many feel-good stories in the news lately, but this morning we found one.

Phillip Morris LaPier is an ex-felon who is running for the governorship of Maine. His platform: to make Maine a mecca for ex-prisoners. The organization behind him is Felons United.

The principal purpose of Felons United "is to abolish branding/labeling our people and violating their constitutional rights as citizens of Maine and the United States of America."

They stress that " Every person is born free and equal under our government and our laws, and they remain equal members of the society throughout their lives. Prison inmates are equal to all other prison inmates. Citizens not in prison are equal to all other citizens not in prison."

Well said. They have a noble plan to achieve this, some of the highlights of which include their intent to:

• Assist disabled and needy persons who have been branded/labeled "Felon"; assist their dependents, widows, widowers and the orphans of deceased persons who were branded "Felon".

• Initiate programs and provide literature to educate those who have been branded/labeled "Felon" and the general public, on the plight, rights and needs of fellow citizens who are branded "Felon".

• Insure that the graves of those deceased people who were branded "Felon" are properly cared for and that those people branded "Felon" who die in the future receive a proper burial, in a place of their choosing.

• Bring lawsuits against government entities and private enterprises that discriminate against members who have been branded "Felon", including individual employees of those agencies and private businesses.

• Oppose the present "drug war" against our citizens.

Their slogans? "Equal Rights Means Good Neighbors" and "Move to Maine - today - bring a friend."

They even have a web store selling Felons United products.

We wish them well.

On a related topic, CLASP (Center for Law and Social Policy) has a report out, Every Door Closed: Barriers Facing Parents With Criminal Records.

"Last year, approximately 400,000 mothers and fathers finished serving prison or jail sentences. As these parents struggle to make a fresh start, they will encounter many legal barriers that will make it very difficult for them to successfully care for their children, find work, get safe housing, go to school, access public benefits, or even, for immigrants, stay in the same country as their children. This groundbreaking new report, a joint publication of CLASP and Community Legal Services, Inc., of Philadelphia, documents the legal challenges these families face, illustrated by compelling stories of ex-offenders who are frustrated in their attempts to rebuild their lives and families."

No comments: