Voting Rights for Parolees?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Brennan Center for Justice recently released a report, "Jim Crow in New York," that says felony disenfranchisement in the state is an extension of Jim Crow laws. Co-author and attorney Erika Wood discusses the report, and Glenn E. Martin, associate vice president of policy and advocacy at The Fortune Society, talks about how individuals and communities are affected by this type of barrier to reintegration.


Glenn E. Martin and Erika Wood

Comments [16]

josh ramos from NYC

I totally respect every commentator's opinion. I see the NO VOTE law for formerly incarcerated men and women as just another burden added to the already heavy unwelcome they receive from law enforcement, communities and society at large when they are released.

Criminal justice reform organizations, foundations and other supporters look at the larger context of this issue, and know that leaving it untouched, will not help, not only the men and women being released but also the ones who are receiving them or in most cases not receiving them back into society. Because it does not create a safe metropolis, no indeed it creates a tense situation for all. The Fortune Society has a wonderful slogan that says, "Thought Prison Was Hard? Try Finding A Decent Job Once You Get Out".

So do we shut people out, strip every privilege and even human right so that they can know we mean business. Or do we show them that we mean business by welcoming them back into a responsible, encouraging, understanding society.

Everyone has a story and no one is born saying "I am going to commit crime." So while continued punishment and marginalization and even discrimination may be the approach of some - I know there are still people out there who have the decency to believe that change is possible and the sense to know that being welcoming with the right supports creates hope and safety - and for many reasons it has to start at the top, namely our City, State, and National public policy.

Feb. 08 2012 08:47 PM
Kieran from Brooklyn, NYC

See my blog post on this topic at:

Here's an excerpt:
.... Most states added felon disenfranchisement laws in the aftermath of the Civil War. It is no coincidence that more people gained the right to vote at that exact moment (at least in writing on the Federal level, via the 13th, 14th, 15th, and later the 19th amendments). Only two states allow everyone to vote (including those who are incarcerated): Vermont and Maine. Those two states are each almost 97% white (the highest white populations by state) ....

Feb. 27 2010 02:43 PM
Yvonne from Park Slope, Brooklyn NYC

Issues overlap.

Mayor Blomberg's current "stop and frisk" policy (It seems this is his primary method of cutting down on crime.) profiles young minority group members and creates criminal records for the possession of marijuana. Meanwhile, many of my white friends walking around with the same marijuana are free of being burdened with the same result.

The underlying idea seems to be that if you cast as wide a net as possible you will catch the fish that you really want ... but what about the rest you have now in the same net??

Feb. 18 2010 11:36 AM
Jgarbuz from Queens, NY

Gee, just what we need: a criminal lobby, as if there weren't enough law abiding criminals in politics as is!

People on parole have not yet paid their debt. They are essentially still prisoners who have to prove that it would be relatively safe to let them off early. Voting rights should only be restored to those who have paid their debt in full. Of course, parole boards should have some reasonable oversight by the judiciary to see that their judgments are both legal and reasonable.

Feb. 18 2010 11:29 AM
john from office

This is a formula for the ignorant and uneducated to influence our system. We would get people like al sharpton in office. These guests are dangerous to our system.

The ignorance of the guests and the callers is palpable. After these elections are held the modiator would move even further out of the City.

Feb. 18 2010 11:28 AM
GCO from CT

If you think that voting is so important to you and you want the right to vote - don't go to prison.

Feb. 18 2010 11:27 AM
Bob from Manhattan

By the way, I think the Fortune Society is one of the great organizations in this country. Prison-to-the-workplace is an essential thing for any ex-convict, and the Fortune Society has been in the vanguard of these efforts. But, like Alex, I wonder about the motivations for this particular "Jim Crow" argument, much like I wondered about those pushing for "motor-voter" registration.

Feb. 18 2010 11:26 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

[7] Kim Leong from Brooklyn, why not listen to another radio station. Rush Limbaugh?

Feb. 18 2010 11:26 AM
Jen from Brooklyn

In a larger context - most people may be surprised to know that the United States has the strictest disenfranchisement laws in the world. No where else in the developed (or undeveloped) world do those members of society who have paid their debt to society no longer have the right to vote.

Feb. 18 2010 11:24 AM
Gene from Long Island

Please mention the recent Second Circuit decision on these statutes.

Feb. 18 2010 11:23 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

[2] Bob from Manhattan, they did the crime, they did the time. They have paid a price for their deeds. The right to vote needs to be reinstated. There is no such thing as a democracy when only a select can vote.

Feb. 18 2010 11:20 AM
Brian from Hoboken

I am literally laughing while listening to this. Parole is part
of punishment and rehabilitation. Parole is still part of the process of paying yourdebt to society. Parole
is generally offered in leiu of a prisoner doing his or her full prison sentence. These people are criminals. The gues referre to them as people "involved in the criminal justice system". I laughed out loud. What are they- attorneys, clerks, judges?! They are criminals. Nice euphemism but I am not
buying it.

Feb. 18 2010 11:20 AM
Frank Lotz from Fort LeeNJ

I am totally against changing the law.
It is a punishment for crime. Voting is a privelege taken away for good reason. It is not done lightly.

Feb. 18 2010 11:17 AM
Kim Leong from Brooklyn

Bob(2) said it better than I ever could.

Feb. 18 2010 11:16 AM
Bob from Manhattan

I find the underlying "Jim Crow" argument spurious. The question is whether disenfranchisement is part of a mix of appropriate punishment for those who violate the laws of our society. Frankly, more important is whether a felon demonstrates the ability to live lawfully within the community, not whether the community owes the felon something.

Feb. 18 2010 11:13 AM

Voting should be a requirement for parolees. Let's start building citizenship, not barriers.

Feb. 18 2010 11:10 AM

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