A City Hall rumor has it that, even if I win the council seat for the 7th Ward (which I’m going to do hands down), I won’t be able to claim the position due to my felonies from a quarter century ago. Not true. One of my opponents (guess who?) must be getting a bit nervous so he’s telling folks that a vote for me is a wasted vote. Again, not true, as I will explain later.
But whatever happened to second chances? Since 2004 there has been a reentry movement afoot in America that’s attempting to reduce recidivism (and thus the crime associated with it) by giving people exiting prison a shot at a decent life — which includes reconnecting with families and landing a job that pays adult wages. After all, I was simply a counterfeiter, not a rapist.
Of course I’m not talking about hug-a-thug. When a person breaks the law of course there should be consequences — even after prison, and there are. For instance, no felon is ever going to be a police officer or a school teacher, and that’s fair enough. But virtually all other fields of endeavor should be open to those who have truly rehabilitated themselves while they were behind bars.
That’s what I did, and I wrote a book (not some flimsy little pamphlet, but a real hardback book that was published by Paragon House of New York City) while I was incarcerated. It’s not about my crimes per se, but instead is a series of essays that seek to examine the inequalities that causes so many of our fellow citizens end up incarcerated in this country.
The book, From Behind the Wall, proved to be my passport to another life, the one I’d always dreamed of but was afraid to pursue. But since a month after my release I have earned my daily bread as a writer, and I also know numerous others that have gone on to have successful careers.
For years I served as the Poster Boy for successful reentry; I’ve been invited to speak at local, regional and national conferences, and have won numerous awards for the efforts I’ve made to go back into prisons and spread the word that if a person is really ready to transition to responsible adulthood there will be folks on the outside waiting to help.
Indeed, my wife and I are among them; we’ve raised funds through our nonprofit to build a vineyard and winery (and have also put a substantial amount of our own money into the project) where we hire and train returning citizens and at-risk youth.
But one or two folks in the neighborhood don’t like what we are doing (amazingly, one of them even has a son currently in prison) and are attempting to use our councilman to put us out of business. But it’s not going to work. I absolutely love a good fight.
And spreading the slanderous rumor that I can’t take office isn’t going to work either. In 2007, then-Attorney General Jim Petro issued an opinion that stated, simply put, that once a person is off of probation or parole they are a fully restored citizen and can hold elective office in the state of Ohio. It’s right there in the Ohio Revised Code: 2967.16(c)(3). Look it up if you like.
I’m running to get Cleveland’s 7th Ward back on track, and you can help me (even if you don’t live in the ward.) We’re hosting a fundraiser on Thu 6/29 @ 4-7pm at the Goldhorn Brewery at E. 55th & St Clair. Please join us, and you can receive an autographed copy of my book. And if you can’t make it, you can go to www.mansfieldfrazier.com and make a donation. Hope to see you there.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.com.