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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Attorney General Calls on States to Repeal Felon Voting Bans

February 11, 2014 | Justice | Comments
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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this week called on states to repeal laws that prohibit felons from voting, saying, “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.”

Current laws preventing felons from voting make it harder for individuals released from incarceration to reintegrate back into their communities – an issue of particular importance for people with mental health and substance use conditions, who make up a disproportionate share of all U.S. inmates. Though the Attorney General’s office does not have jurisdiction over state laws regulating voting by former felons, his appeal is part of a broader effort by the Department of Justice to reform the elements of the criminal justice system that treat minority groups unfairly. Currently, 11 states restrict felons’ voting rights.

Holder noted that voting restrictions “are not only unnecessary and unjust, they are also counterproductive. By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes.” Read more from the New York Times.