"I've lived a lot of places in my life," says KFTC member and new former felon spokesperson Jim Shepherd. "All over the U.S., really; but my family is from Hazard, I've lived here for the last five years, and I'm planning on staying."
"I've always been very political," says Shepherd,"But a lot of the time, I don't feel like a part of the American Democracy."
Jim Shepherd lost his right to vote several years ago for a drug charge. He recognizes that he made a mistake and even turned himself in. Since then, he's served out his sentence and returned to the community, contributing in numerous ways.
"A lot of good people make bad choices in life... and sometimes they get caught," says Jim.
I don't see how restricting voting rights of former felons helps fight crime. They still have opinions, values and families. I think it hurts the people around them more – their neighborhoods, families, and friends.
"Sometimes I do really feel like I have influence in this Democracy, though - and I really do have a voice," says Shepherd. "I talked to Senator Brandon Smith during the General Assembly along with other KFTC members a few months ago. He listened and helped to connect us to other senators to build support for our Voting Rights bill. That made me feel connected as a part of KFTC's work."
Towards the end of our interview, we talked about the current process that former felons can use to apply to get their rights back through a pardon from the Governor. Jim Shepherd hesitated as he thought about it. "I might not apply to get my rights back until everyone else gets them back automatically" (when we win our Constitutional Amendment), he said. "Somehow it doesn't feel right to take part in a rights restoration process that is so backwards. People shouldn't have to do that. I don't know – I'll think about it."