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Do Felons Lose Constitutional Rights?

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As felons realize, and have come to know all too well, after being convicted of a crime, their losses are just beginning.

This blog post will address the question of whether felons lose Constitutional rights.

  • Losses Suffered
  • Civil Rights?
  • Regaining Their Rights
  • Encouraging Felons to Regain Their Rights


Losses Suffered

First, they face a loss of freedom by being incarcerated, often for a significant length of time.  Felony sentences can easily stretch out for a number of years.

Here they are without their basic freedom.  They also face being separated from their families and friends.

For many, there is the loss of a job and career, along with their financial stability with many declaring bankruptcy in the process.

Of course there is also a loss of self-respect from being in prison.

For many it may seem as though they have lost everything, as though they have no rights left to them at all.

Well, first let’s look at the rights they enjoyed as free citizens before going to prison.

Civil Rights?

The rights they had at that time are collectively known as Constitutional rights.

What are those?  When the Constitution was written, there were a number of additions to it.  These, especially the first 10, are known as the Bill of Rights.

These are the basic freedoms permitted to all citizens of the U.S.

Among these are the freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, the right to a speedy trial, etc.

When they were convicted of their felony, certain rights were lost or restricted.  They still maintained the right to indictment, a speedy trial, and no self-incrimination.

Others, however, were lost.  Among these are the right to vote, serve on a jury, hold public office, own or possess firearms.

Where does the view come from for felons to lose their Constitutional rights?

Actually, the loss of civil rights dates back to the days of the Greeks and Romans.  In those societies, those convicted of crimes were not allowed to vote in elections.

Also going back centuries in Europe, felons have been prohibited from voting, owning property, and entering into a contract.

When the English came to the U.S., they brought these restrictions with them.

They have essentially remained to the current day.

There are reasons why felons lose their rights.

Crimes against individuals are considered to be crimes against society.  Laws were implemented to protect society.

Regaining Their Rights

As a result, felons, upon re-entering society, must prove themselves worthy of having those rights restored.

While this gives them a chance to get those rights back, many felons feel as though all of their rights are gone and cannot be regained.

With the difficulty they have in finding a job, often felons believe that this is one of the rights they have lost.

While this is not true, the prevailing feeling is that is the way it is regardless of what they are told.

Additionally, they face restrictions in being employed in certain fields, living in public housing, and receiving some social benefits.

Some felons believe they lose all rights, including the right to work at all, the right to have a family or friends, and the right to self-respect.  The list seems endless.

The common thought is that loss of Constitutional rights is a federal imposition.  Actually, being deprived of rights and consequently having some of those rights restored is a function of state law.

That is, the loss of actual right and any stipulations on having them restored depends on where felons live.  Each state is different in this regard.

So, checking with state law is important.

While felons are restricted to living in the state to which they are released after prison, once they have finished their sentence and any probation, they may move to a different state.

It is important, therefore, to be aware of the state laws in the state to which they are planning to move in order to know which rights are restricted and the procedure, if any, for having that right restored.

This is where it is important for felons to have a goal to work to regain the rights they have lost as a result of their conviction.  The Guide to Becoming Employed has success stories.

They should seek legal counsel to advise them in the process.  Getting more education will help them prepare for a job.  Having their record expunged can also help.

Encouraging Felons to Regain Their Rights

For families of felons who have lost their rights, support them and encourage them to live an honest life and re-acquire those important rights they gave up when they were convicted.

Be there for them during this important phase of their re-entry to society.

So what do you think about this blog post about losing their Constitutional rights?  Have you or someone you know had a felony and lost their rights?  What was that like and were they successful in getting them back?   Please tell us in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Do Felons Lose Constitutional Rights?”

  1. I hate to hear that people have problems restoring their rights. My husband’s were automatically restored within a couple years of paying off all his restitution, with the exception of gun rights. This was in Virginia. Maybe there needs to be a nationwide standard to help with restoring rights

  2. As many know by now..the law it’s not what it seem, not now now 100 years ago..let’s be real. 75% of police officers per department do what “they believe, or want” instead of enforcing the law…there alone it’s a mayor set back for us..also mayor set back it’s the fact of been convicted just once..GAME over for you, specially if it’s a felony conviction..why you ask??. Well now you have a record and any little thing you do will bring that skeleton back to hunt you in a court of law..STATE attorney 1 and only job is to get a conviction out of a defendant,and they will use all that past against you…the law has twisted and turned to more of a $$ thing than most think…specially when it comes to a court room, 1 more inmate in a prison it another dollar to them…keep your kids safe, help them , teach them what you weren’t thought about been a better person..and maybe they wont need to read this in the future..

  3. I’m really sorry to hear that man. Our industrial prison complex is beyond fucked up, and it’s unfortunately showing no signs of slowing down.

    This country loves to punish people via money, time, and overall hassle. Not sure the laws in Indiana, but isn’t the average like 10 years for a felons record to be expunged?

    Assuming they’ve stayed out of trouble that entire time, I believe.

    But the examples of how you were treated is offensive to me, and it bothers me how relevant the Stanford Prison experiment was. Despite it being real life and not a social experiment (though, really what’s the difference? I digress…) those positions of prisoner and cop/authority are roles which we all seemingly fall under, at some point or another.

    So attitudes like that are sadly very typical, and the judgment so many hold towards felons is chopped full of smug hypocrisy. I genuinely try not to judge people for as long as I can (Pieces of S of course are free reign. And you know a piece of S when you encounter one, believe me.), but the human animal is, I’d go so far as to say eager, to cast judgement on any and everyone.

    And it’s so fleeting, yet if they make a mistake, they will throw themselves on the mercy of the court. Of both legal, and of public opinion.

    In disorganized summation, our prisons have never really been about forgiveness and reformation. It’s turned into making a profit at the expense of humanity, though many no longer view the inmates as part of humanity any longer. So it’s free reign, with abuse and exploration. Good times.

  4. I’m a felon and I have been off parole for 8 years. I live and have lived a clean, sober and upright life. However, I have no rights. I am not protected by the law. Not here in Indiana – not in any state. I can’t just move if I want, there’s no ‘going to visit family’. I have no freedom and no way to show myself approved enough to restore it. As one officer put it to me, “[…] you’re a piece of s***, f***** deal with it”. I’ve been assaulted, threatened and extorted; the law and its makers could care less.


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