Reply To: USAToday favors restrictions on felons’ access to federal contracts

Lois Finelli

My email response to Mr. Salman

Mr. Salman,

I didn’t know about your article until yesterday. Glancing at the headline, I was expecting to learn about the man, Lopez, who happens to be on the sex offense registry, and therefore despicable (at least in the eyes of the greater public) and undeserving of government-contracted work. I expected to learn why he was undeserving.

Instead, I learned that Lopez had been in prison after conviction for sexual assault, that he had done his time, and after release started to make a life for himself. He moved on. He was successful, I gather, and his success enabled others to work. The matter of incompetency or bad business practices did not come up, nor did any further violations of the law, or posing a danger to the public.

I learned more about the tendency of the government to award contracts repeatedly to the same companies and I was reminded of laws that allow the disenfranchised to rejoin and reintegrate into the community and to become responsible citizens.

If the article had been entitled “Person loses COVID-19 contract at VA” rather than “Sex Offender,” it’s doubtful that many would have bothered to read it. I wonder if you had substituted “Black man,” “LGBQT,” “Murderer”, “Felon,” or “Former Prostitute,” what the response would have been. Would it be implied that any one labeled as such would also be undeserving?

Labels can be vicious. Journalists, like all people, use them for convenience. Labels also misrepresent and condemn. We all know that labels used in headlines attract attention too. They distort, they shock, they sell.

What was your article really about, Mr. Lopez?

Lois Finelli