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Felony Disenfranchisement Is a Lifetime Sentence

When we think of sentencing law, we typically focus on the duration of incarceration, not the subsequent consequences. Yet felony disenfranchisement is a major part of any felony sentence, one that lasts a lifetime in 11 states. (In 30 states, voting rights are restored following completion of parole supervision and/or probation). So it's no surprise that sentencing law guru, professor Doug Berman, is on top of the issue, with a post on an important new report issued by the Sentencing Project, entitled A Decade of Reform:  Felony Disenfranchisement Policy in the United States (pdf file).

From Berman's post:

[Findings from the report] disclose that since 1997, 16 states have implemented policy reforms that have reduced  the restrictiveness of these laws, and more than 600,000 people in seven states have regained their voting rights. 

There's also a racial component to felony disenfranchisement policies. According to the report,
5 million Americans are still banned from voting this Election Day, with an estimated one in eight African Americans disenfranchised, nearly five times the rate of non-African Americans (See Report at 1) . And from the New York Times article (below), felony convictions have left one in four black men barred from voting in five states: Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Virginia and Wyoming.

Berman is pleased that the media is "giving lots of attention" to the report, linking to this article from the New York Times, States Are Growing More Lenient in Allowing Felons to Vote (10/12/06), which focuses on the racial component of felony disenfranchisement laws, while this article, Mixed Picture on Felons' Voting Rights (Washington Post 10/11/06), discusses a Rhode Island ballot referendum that proposes to amend the state constitution to allow felons to vote upon release from prison.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 12, 2006 at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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