The WDOC created the Restoration of Rights program in 2023 after the Wyoming Legislature approved a new law “providing for the filing of certificates for the restoration of rights” for people convicted of first-time, non-violent felonies.
Those rights include voting rights, which are restored upon completion of the individual’s supervision or sentence, and civil rights, which may be restored five years later, according to the WDOC.
As of Dec. 1, WDOC director Dan Shannon said his agency has approved 3,799 voter registrations and 405 applications for restoration of rights, while 126 applications were denied.
“We have also identified individuals with outstanding warrants (and) identified individuals that had past voter rights restored that did not meet the criteria,” Shannon told the Joint Appropriations Committee during a meeting last month. “So in return, we went and changed our policy to provide an opportunity to rescind those rights.”
It’s been a “privilege to be a part of restoring rights,” Shannon said, noting that, while he is “uncertain” how long the “high volume” of requests will continue coming in, he does know that funding for the position supporting the new program expires June 30.
“Maybe that’s something we consider as we go into (budget) markup,” Wyoming Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, said.
Wyoming Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, commended Shannon for “everything you’ve done with regard to that restoration of rights.”
“There are constituents of mine who are taking advantage of that, and they found your website to be user-friendly,” Salazar said. “I give you and your staff all the credit – you’re just doing a bang-up job, and I appreciate what you’re doing for the citizens of Wyoming on that.”
At another point in the meeting, Larsen also complimented Shannon for the WDOC’s involvement in the “very successful” Sagebrush in Prisons Project at the Wyoming Honor Farm.
Shannon said inmates and staffers have grown more than 300,000 sagebrush over the past four years as part of the project, and the plants are “doing better than anything in the Pacific Northwest.”
The Honor Farm has grown more than 11,000 pounds of food for the Hunger Initiative this year, Shannon said, adding that the effort also provides “those who are confined a great opportunity to give back” and help “those who are less fortunate in our state.”
“I appreciate how they think outside the box,” Larsen said.