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

Will Your Prescription Meds Be Covered Next Year? Better Check!

Syrian children

It’s not just Freddie Gray. The Justice Department’s new report shows how wide and deep Baltimore’s police problems are

My four months as a private prison guard, which has led to US phasing out private prison use

US: The Real Way the 2016 Election Is Rigged

Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary: ‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’ – she said Continue reading “August rambling #2: how ridiculous xenophobia is”

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.

Color film was made for white people.

The War on Science, even in Canada.

Seth Meyers explains that ridiculous Congressional hearing over Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood’s “Government Funding”: The Same Kind Your Doctor Receives.
Continue reading “October #1 rambling: recovery mode”

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 been very difficult to have avoided Continue reading “Matt & Sweat, and derecho anniversary”