The Troup County branch of the NAACP hosted a candidates’ forum Monday at the William Griggs Recreation Center. Attending were local candidates for state house District 128, Couny Commission districts 2 and 3, Board of Education District 1 and sheriff:
State legislative candidates for House District 128 squared off on how the state should handle crime and punishment Monday night.
Leading with a question of how to handle convicted felons being reinstated their voting rights, incumbent Rep. Carl Von Epps, a democrat, said that according to the law, once someone has paid their time and fines, they are eligible to register. He said trying to educate released felons to know they have that opportunity is key.
Republican candidate Gene King agreed that people who have completed their time should get their voting rights back, but said that automatically getting their rights back would probably not be expedient. He said it would be easier for a person to go request their voting rights back in person rather than wait on a system to reinstate it.
The candidates next were questioned about how best to reintegrate convicted felons who have served their time back into the workforce.
King said that Republicans have made revisions in state laws, raising the threshold for felonies on thefts to try and be more lenient to those who steal out of desperation. Community groups, churches and organizations could focus on helping released felons find new employment.
Von Epps said the change in the legislature came from Republicans and Democrats. He said that people coming out of the prison system aren’t the same as when they went in and someone has to invest in them when they go in and when they come out.
On how they would vote on a Missouri law that creates changes in drug charges, including different sentences for crack and powder cocaine:
Epps said since crack is a derivative of cocaine, there should be equity in sentencing in the possession of crack and cocaine. He said the law creates a disparity equating about 5 grams of crack to 50 grams of cocaine, which is unfair.
King said he supported the Missouri law because of its harsher penalties for dealers over someone charged with possession. He said there shouldn’t be a disparity in possession for different drugs, but that drugs in general shouldn’t be handled lightly.