Votes Behind Bars

As of 2010 more than 5.85 million American citizens were disenfranchised as a result of criminal convictions. Only a quarter of those individuals were then incarcerated. Roughly 30 percent were on probation or parole. The remaining 45 percent were ex-offenders, many disenfranchised for life as a result of felony convictions involving small amounts of drugs or nonviolent crimes that never resulted in prison sentences.
Such extensive disenfranchisement would be distressing in any event, but it becomes even more troubling in light of the dramatic effect that offender disenfranchisement has on the black community. More than 2 million African Americans currently are stripped of their right to vote. That’s more than the number of African Americans who gained the franchise in 1870 thanks to the Fifteenth Amendment.

Stanford Law’s Pamela Karlan on the voting rights of those with criminal convictions. (Boston Review, January/February 2013)

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