People make mistakes and some make worse mistakes than others. But stripping American citizens of their rights for life is wrong and it is thoughtless.

Senator Bernie Sanders recently declared that prisoners should be able to vote, even convicted terrorists. He is getting beaten up over it but he deserves credit for being honest. Even if you disagree with him, you have to applaud him for expressing his beliefs at a time in his life when he needs to please the most people possible.

I believe that convicted felons should be able to vote. I also believe they should be able to own firearms.

I don't believe someone who is in prison should be voting while they are incarcerated and obviously owning a firearm at that time is out of the question.

But once someone is released from their period of incarceration, they should have all of their rights restored. We lock people in prison to, in theory, teach them a lesson, and to protect the rest of society from their criminal activities. Once our justice system has released them, that should be the end of the process. If they aren't ready to rejoin society then they should be kept in prison.

I have known people who have gone to prison for their actions. I can't see any reason to prevent them from voting once they have served their time. If they can't be trusted as a voter, they should still be locked away. Same with gun ownership. If they are too dangerous to be trusted with a legal firearm, why are they out on the street?

In my experience, the people who did prison time are also highly informed on current events. There is a reason they call prison "college" in some circles.

Letting prisoners vote while incarcerated is not a good idea. The cities and towns that host prisons will not stand for an inmate voting bloc and it will cause serious disruptions on the local level. How long will a community tolerate thousands of inmates deciding who should be on the local school committee, city council, and board of selectmen?

There is also the potential for disruptions within the walls of prisons as dominate inmates look to become political power brokers.

American citizens who have done their sentence are American citizens, and they have all the God-given rights our system was designed to protect.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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