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Are we a land of second chances?

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Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 6:15 am

To the editor:

In one of his monologues, comedian Richard Pryor bragged on the smarts of a young man who reportedly, "… could book numbers without paper or pencil." This was a story of the ghetto and the young man was black. Pryor was commenting on what was a reality to many mothers and fathers of color — many of our youth have pure genius in one form or another.

You’ll note also that he was using his skill in an illegal pursuit — illegal gambling i.e., street numbers.

Hundreds of thousands of young black and brown men are incarcerated in this country’s correctional facilities. They have been convicted of the crime of possession of illegal drugs with intent to distribute. They were not simply found in possession of drugs — they were in business.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a recent news conference that, "America is a land of second chances." He has made easier the process some convicted felons have to go through to have their rights restored. It’s a great move in the right direction.

Unfortunately, it will not affect the process for drug dealers.

I say unfortunately, because the young men and women who enter the business of selling drugs and do well at it have certain skills which should not be permanently lost to this country. They have management skills, personal initiative and drive.

I don’t applaud the choice of drug dealing as a profession, but I do say we ought to take a second look at a system that puts its foot off the necks of some of the best and brightest. The fact that a person can no longer vote is considered unimportant alongside the reality of doors that are automatically closed to you — help with housing, education — and not available to you as a felon convicted on a drug charge.

Let’s find a way to make a "second chance" more accessible.



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