Allowing people in prison to vote

Fourteen states and DC allow voting rights to be restored automatically upon release from prison.

elon-voting-bars-buttonHmm. The idea of allowing people in prison to vote had never really crossed my mind before recent events.

Now the notion that people who were OUT of prison regaining the franchise HAS been an issue for me. For instance, voting rights can ONLY be restored through an individual petition or application to the government in Iowa and Kentucky, a draconian process.

This was also the standard in Florida until 2018, when the people decided to change it. Voting rights are now restored automatically upon completion of sentence, including prison, parole, and probation.

The right to vote is restored automatically once released from prison and discharged from parole – probationers can vote – in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oklahoma, and New York. I can support this.

Fourteen states and DC allow voting rights to be restored automatically upon release from prison. Hey, this appeals to me even more.

But in Maine and Vermont, voting rights are retained while in prison, even for a felony conviction. This partially explains the position of Bernie Sanders, Presidential candidate and the US senator from the Green Mountain State

In an interview with Truthout’s Amy Goodman, Ari Berman, senior writer at Mother Jones, notes: “Prisoners are already counted for redistricting purposes, so they are already counted where they are incarcerated, but yet they’re not allowed to vote. So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

“And if you believe the purpose of prison is not just punishment, but rehabilitation, then allowing people to still have one of their most fundamental civic responsibilities is a key aspect of rehabilitation.”

Of course, this gets into the whole conversation about whether prison is designed for incarceration or rehabilitation. Check out this 60 Minutes story about how a Connecticut prison is trying to implement a German-style (i.e., civilized) system.

How do other countries deal with the voting issue? Here is a chart of how 45 countries regulate the ability of felons to vote in or , out of prison, or not at all. Note that Canada and Germany are among the least restrictive.

This Truthout title caught my attention: Allowing People in Prison to Vote Shouldn’t Be Controversial. “The mass disenfranchisement of incarcerated people [in the United States] has a racist past and a racist present, and has been used in particular as a tool to suppress the Black vote.” This is clearly true.

“The denial of the vote to people behind bars takes a sharp toll on many marginalized communities, subjecting them to what many call ‘civil death’ — depriving a person of all legal rights.”

Naturally, Arthur chimed in on this issue – in fact, his post popped up as I was writing this piece. “Incarceration is disproportionately directed at people who aren’t white. But that’s an issue on its own, and not, by itself, a reason to let all prisoners vote. Or, maybe it should be?

“Maybe it could help restore justice to the criminal justice system by letting the victims of that system have a say. I don’t yet know what I think, but I’m listening.” That’s about where I’m at. But I’m leaning towards Bernie’s position, significant in that I had had NO position only weeks ago.

Nationwide prison strike: pay, voting, et al.

prison strike
Prison strike 2018
About a month ago, wading through my vast vacation email, I came across a story about a nationwide prison strike: incarcerated people across the country were uniting to protest the inhumane conditions that pass for our prison system. Here’s a short video from last week.

The prison strike demands included:

1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women. Yes, and while they’re at it, getting rid of for-profit prisons.

2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.

As MoveOn noted, “Many incarcerated people are often forced to work with minimal or no pay in strenuous jobs. Just this past summer, there were incarcerated individuals fighting fires in California for just $1 an hour — though they won’t even qualify to get jobs as firefighters in California once they’re out of prison.” In states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, incarcerated people receive no pay for their labor.

Everyone assumes that slavery ended with the 13th Amendment, but the amendment reads as follows:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution actually created a loophole that legitimized slavery—and is used to this day to force people in prison to work with little to no pay, a strategy that allowed slavery by another name, starting shortly after the Civil War.

3. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.

4. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!

But, of course, I know a lot of folks don’t care. Recently, on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver urged Floridians to vote because convicted felons can’t, ever, unless the law changes.

Oliver showed people thinking that the issue doesn’t matter to them because of the feeling that people in prison must have done something wrong – which may not be true. But even those who did the crime, once they’ve done the time, STILL can’t participate in the democratic process.

Logic suggests one would want those rehabilitated citizens “to participate democratically in the fundamental act of how we shape our society,” to have a sense of ownership in their communities.

August rambling #2: how ridiculous xenophobia is

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Music

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October #1 rambling: recovery mode

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will commission 36 playwrights to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into modern English.

wrong reenactment
Still on the mend, wearing this band around my waist, until at least November 9. I will write about this eventually.

I’ve managed to watch more baseball in the past week and a half than I saw the entire regular season. Great to see former Met Rusty Staub after his heart attack. Rooting for the Mets, or if they get eliminated, the Cubs. Just realized that the World Series Game 5 would be November. If it’s the Dodgers in the Series, I’m rooting for the American League team.

ALSO, my office is moving this week. Note to self: do NOT pick up anything over 20 pounds.

Understanding Mass Incarceration and Bringing It Down: An Interview With James Kilgore.

John Oliver: rips GOP candidates for blaming gun violence on mental illness in absence of a plan, and Migrants and Refugees.

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Seth Meyers explains that ridiculous Congressional hearing over Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood’s “Government Funding”: The Same Kind Your Doctor Receives.

What the Speakership Battle is About.

Pope Francis met with an openly gay couple — and unlike Kim Davis, who ambushed him, he did so intentionally, and Was Pope Francis Actually Swindled into Meeting Kim Davis?

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Sweden is shifting to a 6-hour work day.

Shakespeare in Modern English? “The Oregon Shakespeare Festival… recently announced that over the next three years, it will commission 36 playwrights to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into modern English.”

Chaz Ebert reviews the play BlackWhite Love, about Roger and Chaz Ebert.

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K-Chuck Radio’s Sunshine Pop includes rare music from Mary Hopkin and Victor Garber.

New 2015 remix and video of Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson’s 1983 international smash hit single ‘Say Say Say’.

Van Morrison and the Thirty-One Songs about Nothing But a Bad Contract.

Mark Evanier continues to list the twenty top voice actors in American animated cartoons between 1928 and 1968, including Hans Conried (Snidely Whiplash), Don Messick (Scooby-Doo) Alan Reed (Fred Flintstone), Jack Mercer (Popeye), and Gary Owens (Space Ghost, Roger Ramjet).

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Matt & Sweat, and derecho anniversary

The Wife went to college in the North Country, and taught school in the midst of the Adirondack mountains.

matt_sweatOnce upon a time, I used to complained that The Wife did not follow the news enough, mostly because events I thought were commonly known, she was unaware of. She does pay more attention now, checking out 5 minutes of the NPR news each weekday morning, plus catching news at other times of the day.

There was one recent story for which she definitely took notice, which was two convicted murderers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, breaking out of prison, the Clinton Correctional Facility at Dannemora in (WAY) upstate New York on June 6. Truth is that it would have been very difficult to have avoided, with the local cable news station using special dramatic music frequently while the men were loose.

The prison break ended with Matt being shot and killed, and a few days later, on June 28, Sweat being shot but captured alive. It was such a great soap opera that people were casting characters for what seems to be an inevitable TV movie. Some folks were sad that the situation ended. The Wife was NOT one of those people, and she was a bit bummed that Sweat was brought to Albany Medical Center, only a couple miles from our home, for treatment.

She seemed to relate to the vastness of northern New York. She went to college in the North Country and taught school in the midst of the Adirondack mountains. Part of her interest was her concern for those isolated folks in their homes and summer cabins, some of the latter of which Matt and Sweat did break into.

That said, she was bemused by the saga, which involved one prison employee, Joyce Mitchell, who was apparently romantically involved with one or both of the prisoners, procuring tools for the breakout. Mitchell put them in some ground beef, froze it, and then gave the meat to another prison worker to give to the felons. Both employees have been indicted.

True: the Daughter knows more about this case than either my wife OR myself.
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I should also note that this is the 20th anniversary of a derecho that started in the Midwest and eventually struck the Adirondacks and Albany. A derecho is “a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms and sometimes thunderstorms that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds.” Those 70+ mph winds rattled the windows and woke us both from a sound sleep a little before 7 a.m.

It tore up some trees in nearby Washington Park. But a member of our church had dozens of broken bones when a tree fell on her up in the aforementioned Adirondacks.
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Happy birthday to my bride. I love you.