The Silenced Voices of People Who are Currently and Formerly Incarcerated

Volume 19
April 2021

Abstract:
A historic and record-breaking number of Americans voted in the 2020 election, reflecting the electorate’s desire to have their voices heard and prioritize the issues most important to them and their communities. However, multiple states silenced 5.2 million voices due to their current or prior interactions with the criminal legal system. All but two states, Maine and Vermont, as well as Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, in some way restrict people with a felony conviction from voting while in prison, on parole or probation, or post-sentence. These voices being silenced are disproportionately Black and brown, as a result of the overcriminalization of these communities. The arguments supporting felony disenfranchisement are contrary to the ideals of a democratic society and are steeped in racism and discrimination. Restricting the right to vote is not only undemocratic but also counter to the research and benefits: Research has found that many opportunities come to communities and individuals when the right to vote is available. Some states are incrementally revising legislation to restore this right. Florida’s recent policy changes provide insight into the impacts of felony disenfranchisement and the sustained activities to limit Black and brown communities’ voices and power.

chelsea-thomson-the-silenced-voices-of-the-incarcerated