I’ve been perusing some Facebook groups that are directed toward felons and how to move forward successfully in life after a felony conviction. And while I love that these are available, I also notice the amount of misinformation or lack of information that is being shared between everyone.
Examples of Misinformation about Felons
People are discussing creating petitions to their state when it is very possible (and has happened) that the state already has something similar in place (this means wasted time – when you could be busy qualifying and applying for it already). These felony relief and collateral consequence remedy (and other various proofs of conviction rehabilitation) programs are not easy to find, but they are one of the least utilized tools that are already there. Start searching ‘reentry resources’, ‘certificates of good conduct’, and ‘restoration of rights’ for a few insights into what is available – or check out my Guide to Life After a Felony, where I researched every state’s felony relief programs for you.
Common Myths about Felons
People also often seem to think that felons are not supposed to be friends or in the same vicinity with each other, or that felons can’t vote for the rest of their lives no matter what.
Felons DO Earn Their Rights Back
That whole ‘we’re screwed on absolutely everything for eternity after your conviction’ thing – this simply is not the case in many states. Felons can restore their rights after their conviction in most states and in most cases.
Once you are finished serving your incarceration AND supervisory sentence (prison, probation, or parole), you actually get many of your rights back automatically. I know for a fact that in Illinois, I was able to vote the same year I finished my ‘supervised’ term. I didn’t care to vote until recently, but I was allowed to do so if I wished to vote that very same year. So, yes – felons can vote in some states. And more states are getting on board with it – check out this recent update on felon voting rights in Florida.
And as for being buddies with other felons, it IS legal for you to do so. It might not be the best of ideas, especially if the felons you’re friends with are still behaving badly – as you really don’t need the inspiration to join in again – but it’s not against the law to be friends.
…In Most Circumstances Anyway…
Honestly, the bit about felons being around each other pretty much only apply to people that have specific bars against contact with certain individuals in their probation/parole while they are on it. And usually for good reason too.
I know in my case, there was an additional supervision condition of completely avoiding the individual who had been my companion in my criminal conviction, and I found later that they had a similar condition on their paperwork against me. It was literally illegal for us to be in contact or to communicate in any way. But it only lasted until our respective sentences were finished. Well, the legal part did anyway, I’ve avoided that particular individual like they are made of toxic waste simply because I don’t need the temptation to fall back in with people I KNOW don’t have the ‘let’s move on mentality’. It’s just not healthy. And since I never moved, I still get updates on occasion – it’s annoying, but reminds me that I’m on a path of improvement instead of self-destruction. That is the important thing.
The mindset of who you around GREATLY influence you and your motivation. Don’t trap yourself into negative mentalities or negative situations, and be realistic about who you’re around if you really want to make a shift to a better place. This is a huge factor in recidivism and why so many felons become repeat offenders – the same situations will bring you the same sorrows, so change it up!
Rights After Conviction
Gun rights are another big unknown for many felons, but there are many states that will allow you to gain back your right to a firearm as well. Example: In Illinois, once you’re done with your sentence, you can apply for your FOID (firearm owner identification) after completion – and if you are denied, you can take it to the local court to discuss with a judge why you earned/ deserve the right back. The local assistant district attorney said that this was a common occurrence at the time that I asked – he didn’t even have to consult one of the many books in the office.
Of course – certain convictions will influence the outcome of your attempts in each state, and until documented rehabilitation efforts are created and show you as fully functional in this direction, that probably won’t change. So get character letters and references to help prove those improvements in your life if you want to amp up your chances.
But for the majority of other convictions, you are likely fully eligible to make the attempt to show you’ve earned this right again. Some states are a little more hardball (see Illinois and the FOID card system), and others play it more loosely. You have to learn to research each and every one of these things, and have the patience to read through the “legal speak”. It isn’t easy, but IT CAN lead you to what you NEED to climb that ladder!
The same goes for voting after a felony conviction – not all states allow it (there are two left according to the Vox link below)- but some states are making improved changes in the voting arena. I had no issue with registering to vote in Illinois with my felony background- once my sentence was fully served and most states are the same way. Florida is the most recent that I’ve heard of (updated 2018) to bring ex-convicts back into the voting pool – allowing felons to vote and have their voice heard among the rest of the voting population far more quickly than before.
I think that pretty much covers the biggest things that I’ve noticed with misinformation about having a felony and how it influences our lives after our convictions. The biggest thing to remember here is to DO THE DAMN RESEARCH. Or you can choose to pay me to do it for you at my Fiverr Gig. I keep it affordable but do require some payment as the research takes time – every situation is different and some are pretty damned complicated too.
Point is, you HAVE to be armed with KNOWLEDGE about your state and your conviction. Without this sort of arsenal, you’ll keep feeling like the dog that society tends to think we are.