Duluth News Tribune: With debt paid, Minnesota felons be allowed to vote to give them stake in society

(May 4, 2015, Duluth News Tribune, Chuck Frederick)

Daris Nordby’s life has been filled with mistakes, and if he’s due any credit at all, it can be for his willingness to own up to them and take responsibility. His first felony conviction, for possession of methamphetamine, came at age 16. His first of 890 days behind bars came in 2010 after he threatened a guy while under the influence of meth. Another felony followed after a domestic dispute and a regrettable push to the neck, again while on meth.

Nordby is out of jail and has been sober for a year now, but the reminders of all that he did and of who he is — a felon — dog him relentlessly. He can’t find housing. He lived with a girlfriend for a while but moved out when she started using and he no longer wanted to. He can’t find work. He had a job cleaning a department store at night but lost it when the homeless shelter where he started staying in February said he couldn’t sleep there during the day.

“I’ve experienced many barriers and hindrances during this process of changing my life to be a productive member of society,” said Nordby, 27, who grew up near St. Cloud and moved to Duluth to get away from the people in his hometown who he knew would keep selling him drugs, keep him using and lead him back toward trouble. He came to Duluth for help from the Bethel Port Rehabilitation Center, where he spent six months. He came here to save his life.


“But in 1858 when our Constitution was enacted, we had about 35 people in prison (and) there were about 75 felony crimes on the books. Today there are over 370 felony crimes.” In other words, times have changed, said Jason Adkins, executive director of the St. Paul-based Minnesota Catholic Conference, one of six groups represented when Nordby was interviewed at the News Tribune last week, all of them members of the Restore the Vote Coalition.


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