Pubdate: Sun, 09 Oct 2005
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2005 The Miami Herald
Author: Anthony Lorenzo


Re the Sept. 18 Five Questions interview Freeing offenders' voices: 
As an ex-convict, I have some suggestions on how the Florida 
Department of Corrections could ease offenders' assimilation into the 

First, when I was in prison, work release was a privilege. Yet this 
likely is the only way that people could legitimately save some money 
and have a gentler transition back into society. The DOC doesn't 
allow people with good behavior to go to work release if they have a 
drug charge unless they complete a drug-treatment program. But the 
treatment programs are a joke, and the department seems to prefer to 
have inmates with weed-eaters along Florida highways.

Second, the state should give ex-cons the right to vote once we have 
served our sentence.We pay taxes, and therefore we should have 
representation. I have been waiting for four years, conviction-free, 
to have my voting rights restored.

Third, I can't be licensed to work in many fields, from massage 
therapy to being a lawyer to cutting hair. These and many other 
professions deny licenses to ex-felons, setting up hurdles for us to 
making a living legally.

Finally, DOC's mission should change from punishment to 
rehabilitation, making it a priority. Job training, education and 
economic opportunity are the biggest reducers of recidivism 
statistically. Yet Florida makes none of these parameters a priority 
in our prisons.

I realize that people think those who commit crimes, even nonviolent 
victimless crimes, deserve to be punished for our indiscretions. But 
they should think about this: I was treated like an animal for 2 1/2 
years; I worked at gunpoint on a chain gang because authorities 
refused to send me to work release. I was sent home with only $100 
cash. I'm not allowed to work, am denied financial aid to go to 
college and may not even be able to get licensed in the field that I 
have gone to school to learn -- acupunture.

Is it any wonder that ex-convicts end up back in prison? Working at a 
dead-end, minimum wage job is not a life. Even Pizza Hut said that it 
couldn't promote me, no matter how great an employee I was.

Anthony Lorenzo

- ---
MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman