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The American Probation and Parole Association sent a letter in March to members of the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee in support of LB 75. We would like to take this opportunity, as LB 75 awaits its final round of debate, to submit our support to all members of the Nebraska Legislature, Governor Pete Ricketts, and to the people of Nebraska.

APPA is an international professional association with members in Nebraska and throughout the United States, who work in probation, parole, and community-based corrections. These employees work with and supervise more than 5 million adults across the nation and know firsthand the challenges faced by those re-entering society after incarceration. Success in this profession improves the lives of the individuals and enhances the public safety of our communities. Restoring voting rights to those released from prison encourages rehabilitation and assists our members in their efforts to promote public safety.

We know that measures like LB 75 strengthen public safety. Voting allows those with prior convictions to participate more actively in their communities and create supportive bonds with others. Voting is an important part of civic engagement that contributes to pro-social behavior resulting in less crime.

Voting is more than casting a ballot, it is also an essential part of American democracy. It is raising your voice to say “yes” to better opportunities for your family, “yes” to better resources for law enforcement training, and “yes” to healthy communities. Voting is every citizen's right. Voting gives individuals an opportunity to choose their representatives, register their policy preferences, and have their voices heard at all levels of government.

Under current Nebraska law, several thousand state residents are barred from voting until two years after their sentence has been completed. This brands them as outsiders, prevents full participation in their communities, and hinders reentry efforts. Research conducted by Human Rights Watch and The Sentencing Project found these laws have been condemned as having "no discernible legitimate purpose."

The individuals APPA’s members supervise are living in our neighborhoods, working, and contributing to our communities. Allowing participation in the voting process would affirm the individual’s value to the political process. Restoring the right to vote upon completion of sentence encourages participation in civic life and builds connections to other law-abiding citizens who serve as support for those who may struggle with substance abuse or mental health issues.

APPA strongly believes that bringing people with past convictions into the political process is an important part of rehabilitation and successful reintegration. Approving LB 75 upholds the value of patriotic duty and justice by aligning Nebraska with states like Texas and Pennsylvania that adopted simple commonsense standards to allow those with a criminal record to vote.

In 2007, APPA passed a resolution in favor of restoring voting rights to individuals upon release from prison. We were joined by other criminal justice and law enforcement organizations, including the American Correctional Association, the Association of State Correctional Administrators, and the National Black Police Association, in passing similar resolutions. We respectfully ask Nebraska lawmakers to promote public safety and support LB 75.

Diane Kincaid is deputy director of The American Probation and Parole Association.

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