Prisons & Politics How America’s Justice System is Destroying Democracy…
The Problem… <ul><li>The prison system used by most states has detrimental effects on the electoral system; from denying people the right to vote to distorting the balance of power in legislatures </li></ul>
The Right to Vote… <ul><li>About 5.3 million Americans, from every race and both genders, cannot vote because they served prison time </li></ul><ul><li>Only 2 states, Vermont and Maine, immediately restore a person’s rights upon release </li></ul><ul><li>In most states committing a felony, like fraud or grand theft, can get your right to vote taken away for life </li></ul>
Right to Vote 2… <ul><li>State govt.’s make released prisoners go through lengthy “application” processes to regain their rights…most do not have the time or money necessary to complete the process </li></ul><ul><li>Released prisoners are supposed to be “rehabilitated” into normalized society but are denied the same status and rights as normal citizens </li></ul>
The Issue in Florida… <ul><li>During the 2000 and 2004 elections thousands of Floridians could not vote because of felonies they served time for; it is estimated that the outcome of both elections would be different if even 25% of these Americans were allowed to vote </li></ul><ul><li>In 2007 Gov. Charlie Crist began signing executive orders restoring the rights of any who have fulfilled all aspects of their sentencing </li></ul>
Purge Lists… <ul><li>Each state compiles and cross-references lists of felons who cannot vote called “Purge Lists” </li></ul><ul><li>People on these lists are “purged” from the voter rolls, often without being notified </li></ul><ul><li>Mistakes are often made on these lists due to differences in each states’ system </li></ul><ul><li>Before the 2000 election at least 8000 people were wrongfully purged from Florida voter rolls </li></ul>
Prison Populations and Voting… <ul><li>In the census prisoners are counted as residents of the district in which they reside while incarcerated; not where they’re actually from </li></ul><ul><li>Consequently districts with large prisons have a population boost when it comes to determining representation in state legislatures </li></ul>
The Politics of Prisons… <ul><li>Justice System reform to restore rights to prisoners and ex-prisoners is risky for a politician’s career because of negative public opinion </li></ul><ul><li>Not restoring ex-cons’ rights leads to higher rates of recidivism; some speculate that politicians allow this to maintain high levels incarceration to look “tough on crime” </li></ul>
The Reforms Needed… <ul><li>The laws must be changed to allow for more efficient restoration of rights to those released from prison; writing state and Federal legislatures as well as Governors can help accomplish this </li></ul><ul><li>Many organizations already exist to help lobby for convict rights and help people with the difficult application process </li></ul><ul><li>The census must be changed so that prison populations are not counted as part of a congressional districts population </li></ul>
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