Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

11 Weeks in Paris

Greetings from Paris where Amanda and I will be until Nov 3. We arrived on August 18.

This trip, which we booked back in April, was contingent on 1) getting permission from the court or 2) getting early termination of supervised release. As you know, I got the latter so I did not need to seek the former.

For those who have followed this blog, which I hope to continue to update while I Paris, you may be interested in knowing that I am blogging about my time in Paris at:

It occurred to met that this is almost as long as the 13 weeks I spent in Pensacola Federal Prison. Maybe I should have called this blog 13 Weeks in Pensacola instead of The Rabbit Hole. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Restoration of Civil Rights

The other day I received a letter from my probation officer which enclosed the Report and Order Terminating Supervised Release, the official court document officially terminating my supervised release, dated July 16, 2009. This letter also included instructions concerning the restoration of civil rights (both state and federal) that I lost as a felon.

Click here for a copy of the documents I received

One can only restore rights once all the terms of the sentence are completed, including supervised release, fines, restitution, etc. Supervised release was the only remaining term for me since all fines and restitution were paid prior to entering prison. (Note: for many white collar defendants, the restitution is so great -- millions of dollars -- that they have no hope of ever paying it back. As a result, they never complete the term of their sentence and cannot never request restoration of civil rights.)

Interestingly, the request for restoration of rights is considered a civil action, which must be docketed and for which I have to pay the filing fee.... $4 for the first page and $.25 per page afterwards.

The vast majority of rights lost can only be restored by executive pardon. A federal pardon can only come from the US President and apparently restores state rights as well as federal rights. A state pardon only applies to restoring state rights.

Federal rights requiring a federal pardon include:

1. Right to serve on federal jury.
2. Right to obtain retirement annuity benefits (I think this applies to federal employees who commit a crime related to their official functions -- see Public Law 769)
3. Cannot hold union office for 5 years of conviction (applies to labor officials)

The other significant civil right that is lost and can only be restored via federal pardon or application to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (which however is not accepting applications due to budgetary contraints) concerns the "right to distribute, ship, transport, receive, or possess any type of firearm, ammunition, or exposive materials." Fortunately, I have never owned a gun nor have any interest in owning one but I have described elsewhere that the law considers "possession" to include "constructive" (as wel as "actual") which means that merely knowing where a weapon is located and having access to it constitutes "possession."

Most North Carolina rights appear to be restorable by simply filing the Report and Order Terminating Supervised Release with the local clerk of court. These include:

1. Right to vote.
2. Right to hold public office.
3. Right to obtain and hold certain state or local licenses. This is discretionary (depending on license and offense I suppose)
4. Right to work in an establishment where alcohol beverages are sold.
5. Right to serve as juror.

There are travel limitations to certain foreign countries but these are a function of THOSE countries' embassies or state departments, not US law. At this point, the only ones I am aware of are Canada, England, and Australia.