Out Of Prison, but Far From the Ballot Box

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Voting rights, or lack thereof, vary by state in the U.S. According to the ACLU, by 2021, approximately 5.85 million Americans with felonies (and in many states, those with misdemeanors) are effectively barred from participating in US policy and the process of representation. Laws vary in severity; States including Kentucky and Virginia permanently exclude anyone who has committed a felony from voting, while Idaho and Georgia allow felony people to vote upon completion of their sentence. And to be clear, “end of sentence” includes the parole period, which can be up to several years.

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As a convicted felon, I am a person of particular interest in the subject. In 1990, I was 19 years old and went to jail. I was too young to vote in the 1988 presidential election and was in prison by the time the ’92 round came. In 2018 I was able to vote for anything other than class president for the first time after completing four years of parole – within 24 years – to officially complete my reinstatement in the state of California. During that time I was counted in three rounds of the US Census and I had no voice. For 30 years of fund allocation and district mapping, I remained silent and without representation. One in a million.

As an American, I can’t help but think about the Revolutionary War and the idea of ​​”taxation without representation.” As a black man, it’s hard not to miss the ancestors who drafted a document that declared many who looked like me to be a human, and Jim Crow’s policies that made it difficult or downright were designed to be lethal. Location. I look at maps of voting restrictions in relation to those involved in justice and wonder who benefits from these policies. What is ROI? So many millions are grinding through the system to pay off their debts while the system dilutes their value through suffrage in elections.

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As a human being, I hurt for the millions of Americans who feel that the ‘system’ – and the United States Electoral College – let them down. How many people are feeling hopeless, helpless and powerless? How many are left without any faith or hope or dreams? How many people really believe their eyes and ears and are convinced that their voice doesn’t matter? Please consider some of the sentences you just read and put yourself in their place. How does it feel? If you were, what would you want?

While it may seem like a tall order to imagine any of these things, educating yourself on the link between the carol system and economic exclusion is possible — and important. I suggest starting with Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Capturing Mass in the Age of Colorblindness.In it, she writes: “The discrimination faced by African-American men is prevalent among other minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged populations.” Jim Crow laws were enacted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to deny suffrage to black people and remove political and economic gains made during the Reconstruction period. Alexander makes a powerful argument that Jim Crow is alive and well by being largely imprisoned and decapitated.

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Once you realize Jim Crow’s legacy today, and you consider that, with one of the 13th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly prohibits slavery”other than punishment for the offense, “The next obvious question to ask yourself is how can you, as a business leader, effect change in your sphere of influence?

Consider visionary companies like The Trium Group, a consulting firm recognized for cultivating transformational leaders in Fortune 500 organizations. They have invested in sponsoring my organization’s alumni to train as trainers and mentors. They then work as part of a larger social justice enterprise to empower returning citizens and give them the means to use their life experience, make a difference in the boardroom and earn a living wage. DeFi Ventures is another organization focused on providing humanization connections and promoting sustainability and entrepreneurial training for people, both current and former incarcerated, who want to engage in not just jobs, but careers. These are individuals who, once employed, can know the dignity of economic security and participate in the society from a position of inclusion.

We also see that organizations outside this space are beginning to play an important role in economic suffrage. Apple recently committed $30 million Its $100 million Racial Equality and Education for Justice initiative. Projects include the Global Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Equity Innovation Hub and more programming for community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It can contribute to the closure of the prison pipeline by expanding higher learning access and creating greater diversity in corporate hiring practices. According to USA Today, “Of the roughly 52,000 black people employed at Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, 64% are workers…At Apple, 80% of executives are white.” Apple’s contribution is an investment in the future of business – and an opportunity To change what it currently looks like.

These are small samples of what daring business visionaries are doing to actively turn the tide of economic liberation as they respond to their own internal call to grow. It is often said that America is built on trade; We are often told that America is a democracy. In order to both recognize the validity of the former statement and to fulfill the latter’s promise, US companies and business leaders must step up and take up civic responsibilities, which are consistent with their role in the US government and the benefits that accrue from it. are suitable for.


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