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Sanders holds criminal justice reform panel

Sanders invited two ex-convicts to discuss their experiences post-prison

By Ann Marie Awad
Sanders holds criminal justice reform panel
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., moderated a panel Saturday on criminal justice reform. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

ANAMOSA, Iowa, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., held a panel on criminal justice reform in eastern Iowa, less than two miles away from the Iowa state penitentiary.

The panel was held Saturday in the cafeteria of Strawberry Hill Elementary, where 200 people crowded in to hear Sanders moderate a discussion on race and criminal justice. On the panel were ex-convicts Jerome Miller and Ruben Johnson and former Ohio state Senator Nina Turner.

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The Des Moines Register reports Turner took a leave of absence from the Ohio Democratic Party to campaign for Sanders.

"I got a big speech, but I ain't gonna give it," Sanders told the crowd. "Because these guys know a lot more about this than I do."

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Johnson told the crowd of his challenges after being released from prison with just $75 and no direction. Miller -- who served 11 years in prison -- discussed how he's devoted his time since his release to helping other ex-convicts find employment. He told the crowd that the right to vote -- a right taken away from convicted felons in Iowa -- would make him a "whole person."

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"Right now I'm a second-class citizen. I can't vote and I can't carry a gun," he said. "I don't want a gun and the only person I probably would vote for if I could is Bernie."

According to data from the Sentencing Project, nearly 6 million convicted felons who have already served their time will be unable to vote in next year's presidential election. Iowa is among twelve states restrict voting rights for formerly incarcerated convicted felons.

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