VoteRiders helps returning citizen get ID & rebuild life
Written by: Erin Carden
Jay is a 40-year-old FedEx driver from North Carolina who loves playing video games, spending time with his stepchildren, and grilling.
In 10 months, Jay will have a new house, and in a little over a year he will be picking up and delivering loads as a self-employed truck driver.
According to Jay (whose name is changed for privacy reasons), he’s doing better than ever, but previous years were a lot harder.
When Jay was released from prison in 2018, he had nothing. With no money and no ID, he was unable to apply for jobs or housing assistance. After two years of living with his girlfriend, he was determined to get what he needed to start rebuilding his life.
“My plan was to find good employment, find a house, and not go back,” Jay explained.
After speaking with someone at the North Carolina Vital Records office and learning that VoteRiders could help him get an ID and other important documents for free, Jay’s plan was already beginning to unfold.
Jay reached out to VoteRiders and was quickly connected to Pamela Pearson, the North Carolina Voter ID Coalition Coordinator and Deputy General Counsel.
“She got everything done,” Jay explained. “She was kind and offered words of encouragement. She told me she’s not giving up on me.“
According to The Sentencing Project, 55 million Americans can’t vote because of a previous conviction. This number includes one out of every 16 Black Americans versus one in every 59 non-Black citizens. Fortunately, Jay was able to get his voting rights restored, a fundamental freedom that he wishes everyone impacted by the justice system could enjoy.
“They try to stop people with backgrounds from voting because if everybody that got out of prison could vote, it would make a difference,“ he said. “They already know how it is [in prison], so they’re gonna vote for a person that’s gonna change the system.”
Like many critics of the justice reform system, Jay finds the existing re-entry programs to be appallingly deficient.
“These halfway houses tell you to pay 200 dollars a week,” he explained. “Where are you getting 200 dollars from? You just got out of prison!”
Unlike many re-entry programs that currently exist, Jay has a vision for a program that has the potential to make a real difference in communities impacted by incarceration.
“If I had the money, I would get a big building and start off with 30 beds where people can stay for free for six months, and they would be helped every step of the way,“ he explained. “You have a job for them, you help them save their money, open up a bank account, help them repair their credit. You have a voucher for them to get some clothes. I would use my story … and just change 30 lives at a time.“
When people like Jay are released from prison with no money or ID, successfully re-entering society can be an uphill battle with little hope in sight. VoteRiders is here to make this reality a thing of the past. Our voter ID assistance program is designed to help every American live their life with dignity and ensure no citizen’s voice is silenced by restrictive voter ID laws.