By Juanita Bratcher
With 33 years of helping youth whoâ€™ve had minor scrapes with the law, Rev. Bailey is now on a serious mission to inform ex-felons in Illinois that they can vote in Tuesdayâ€™s November 6, 2012 General Election.
Bailey is passionate and serious about getting this message out. He feels that thereâ€™s the possibility that some ex-felons may not be aware that their right to vote is restored after being released from prison.
While felons in Illinois lose their right to vote while in Prison, their voting rights are restored upon release from prison. Thatâ€™s the message Bailey is sending out to those who might think they are ineligible to vote because of time spent in prison.
â€œThere are massive rumors throughout the state that those persons who have been incarcerated and are returned back to our society cannot vote,â€ Bailey said. â€œThis is being done very silently and shamelessly. I think very seriously that there is a concerted effort throughout the United States, but more importantly in Illinois that some have purposely met and agreed to mislead young men and women who have filtered through the Illinois Department of Corrections.â€
Bailey, Founder and President of Probation Challenge and the PCC Network, is the former Chairman of the Cook County Board of Corrections.
Some years ago, Bailey noted, it was unacceptable for ex-inmates to vote after serving time, however, the late Mayor Harold Washington set a precedent by cutting through red tape to make it happen.
â€œMayor Washington set the precedent for us and we should protect that right,â€ said Bailey. â€œBut more importantly, he engaged ex-inmates to vote. How dare such a man of honor could do such an incredible thing that has not since been duplicated. I hasten to point out that the gains made by the mayor and other well-wishing politicians have been tossed aside now into the sea of forgetfulness.
â€œSo, I stand today seeking to resurrect the soulful hearts of those persons who have paid their debt to society. I point this out and itâ€™s not an act of cuddling but an act of justice rather than â€˜JUST US.â€™ It is also an act of education. Education brings about awareness and awareness brings on the ability for people to think. And when they can think, prayerfully, they can make rational decisions.â€
Bailey said those politicians â€œthat we have engaged and sent to sit in the seats of authority should have reached back, sounding the clarion call for ex-inmates, if you will, to get off the seat of doing nothing and go about the matter of citizenry.â€
To that end, Bailey was asked whether the Board of Elections should inform ex-felons of their right to vote.
â€œAbsolutely, the Board of Elections and anyone dealing with the subject of voting should be concerned about all Americans voting. There should be no exceptions to the rule.
â€œI want ex-felons to know that they can exercise their rightful duty to vote. This was paved by our foreparents with blood, sweat and tears. The fear of those persons in seats of authority is that massive voting of youth of color will dismantle the powers that be. Young folks can think, though often misled; but given an opportunity to do the right thing they will comply.
Bailey added, â€œBut old actions of trickery have come to an end under the auspices of this 2012 election. Deceivers should now get in line with persons seeking to bring about a big difference in the lives of all American citizens with no exclusions.â€
Thousands of young people whoâ€™ve had minor scrapes with the law have filtered through the Probation Challenge program, and many have successfully changed their lives for the better under the auspices of the program.
â€œI would suggest to the many thousands of persons who came up under my learning to exercise what theyâ€™ve been taught,â€ said Bailey. â€œI suggest that they quickly mobilize as they once did in the street illegally and do it this time legally and righteously taking massive people to the polls (on Election Day). Also, they must talk back legally, fight back legally, and take back all those things that were illegally stolen from them.â€
Baileyâ€™s message to ministers: â€œThey should not tell people how to vote but encourage people to put on the mantle of righteousness and the precepts of God who in fact told us to obey the laws of the land. We have been commanded by God to not subscribe to the evil but to quietly set good spiritual principles and good spiritual people in seats of authority. However, the enemy would not desire for us to do that.â€
Acknowledging that â€œyoung people are our future,â€ Bailey said â€œmany of our elders have grown weary under the strain and stress of the oppressor.â€ He said youth must unequivocally pick up the cross and carry their burden of responsibility. And they must vote, vote, vote, he said.
Rev. Harold E. Bailey is President of Probation Challenge/PCC Internet Broadcast Network – The Truth Network – WWW.ProbationChallengeorg.