Wednesday, March 21, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Amicus Brief Submitted in Felon Disenfranchisement Case

"Vote" by Anthony Papa,
Today I filed an amicus brief on behalf of a list of leading criminal justice scholars, supporting petitioners in All Of Us Or None v. Bowen. AOUON and other organizations have filed a petition asking that the Secretary of State allow people serving their sentences in jails post-realignment, or under community post-release supervision, to vote in the elections. In doing so, they rely on the California Constitution, which grants the vote to everyone except those “imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony". The Secretary of State, however, guides inmates not to vote if they are felons, even if they are serving their sentence in jail.

Here's the summary of our argument in support of the petition:

Following the California Criminal Justice Realignment, inmates convicted of non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual offenses will serve their sentence in county jails, rather than in state prisons. The legislative history of AB 109, as well as its language and the practices it directs and encourages, suggest that the legislature intended to use local facilities not merely as a cost-saving measure, but rather as a tool in recidivism reduction through community corrections, reentry and rehabilitative programming. Amici posit that the local setting of jails is an ideal locus for implementing community reintegration goals, and that civic involvement, including enfranchisement, is paramount to these goals. A broad interpretation of the right to vote as including all population in local jails—convicted of non-serious, non-sexual, non-violent offenses, felonies and misdemeanors alike—is fully congruent with these goals. Moreover, enfranchising a broader population, as a result of AB 109, would increase democracy and encourage participation of underserved low-income communities and communities of color in the political and civic process. Finally, Amici rely on empirical research findings to suggest that enfranchisement of all jailed and formerly jailed individuals can positively contribute to recidivism reduction, a socially and economically desirable outcome.

The full brief can be downloaded from Dropbox.

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