(posted originally at The New York Times' Room for Debate)
My view is that the routine revocation of rights for those convicted of any felony is an ancient mistake. Today, with the incredible increase in felonies caused by political grandstanding instead of the public interest, the rule no longer makes sense.
It does make sense to be selective. Depriving sex criminals and child molesters certain rights is important in sending a message, as is depriving violent felons of the rights to guns. These rules should be redone with specific purpose in mind for certain crimes. We should be very reluctant to impose any penalties that impede a convicted person's rights to work and rehabilitation, while retaining a common sense approach to articulating our values against crime through punishment.