There are felons among us.
Some people find it disconcerting the way I speak openly, frankly, about my felon status or my experiences in prison, but this is deliberate on my part. I am trying to make a point - trying to assure you that even though you’ve read some scary headlines and watched some frightening TV shows, the felon boogeyman isn't out to get you. Those stories your Big Brother told you? They were mostly meant to scare you and aren't exactly true. I want to turn on the light, let you peek under the bed, in the closet, and show you nothing scary is hiding there.
I know there are plenty of valid reasons why felons don’t purposely call attention to their status but our silence certainly hasn’t done us any favors. In fact, we’ve done such a good job of laying low, making ourselves invisible, that America is shocked to discover we exist - on the outs.
Often, when people discover I am a felon, they blurt, “No you’re not! Not a real one, anyway!”
Now what is that supposed to mean? I’m not a real felon? I’m just pretending? Or is it that I don’t match the faces and headlines you see posted on the regular in your local news feed? I was there once but you just don’t remember now. At least you don’t remember until it comes time for me to check that box on an employment application, apply for a passport, coach a youth soccer team, or register to vote. I’m not complaining. I’m just sayin’.
Okay. I’m complaining - at least about the employment and voting rights. I’m supposed to stay quiet and accept this as the way it is because I went to prison. I’m not supposed to say it’s wrong because... that’s just exactly what a felon would do, right?
Well, I just don’t feel right sitting around doing nothing when injustice is happening all around. I talk about being a felon because I am a felon and America needs to know that. It matters.
On my lunch break today, I picked up the paper and the Washington Post opinion piece jumped out at me, “Felons Are One of Our Largest and Most Invisible Groups”. When I found the story on the Valley News website, the title was, Felons Among Us, which made me laugh because I have a blog post with this exact same title sitting in my drafts folder on my computer, created on August 25, 2015. Instead of finishing that article, I’ve decided to answer the opinion piece in the paper which states:
"We don’t know how many children they have, their marital status, who they live with, their housing situations. We don’t know their mortality rates or life expectancy, their disease and disability profile, their mental-health status. We do not know their labor force participation rates, unemployment rates, jobs by sector or wages.”
Here’s my contribution to help them begin gathering that data:
- I have 5 children and 1 grandchild (due six days ago).
- I’m divorced (a year after returning home from prison).
- I live alone unless you count my two cats.
- I rent a house.
- I don’t know my life expectancy.
- My medical record is private but I am generally healthy.
- I am chemically modified to manage depression (which I do successfully).
- I’m employed full-time in the IT sector and part-time as recording secretary.
I’m also middle-aged, white, female, don’t do drugs or drink alcohol, don’t smoke, rarely swear except when Trump gets me riled up. I think I am a pretty decent neighbor except my cats are a bit wayward at times. I wicked love being a mother. I’m in a happy, committed relationship. My credit score is recovering. I don’t have a college degree. I love to read, garden, run, write, tech, laugh, and - one of my favs - I love to THINK. I’m trying to learn how to hit a golf ball, straight and I’m committed to contributing meaningfully to make the world a better, safer place.
And I am a felon - just one of the felons among you.
Oh, and I also vote (not all states allow us to do that).
I understand why I’m not supposed to talk about being a felon but if we keep on with our silence, we’ll never help America grow past their fear of the boogie felon lurking in the job market and especially in the voting booth.