Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. has made a number of statements in recent months about changes to the federal government’s sentencing policy, perhaps most recently speaking out against mandatory minimum sentences in some drug cases. Today, Attorney General Holder called on states to repeal laws that prohibit ex-felons from voting after their release from prison.
In a speech at Georgetown University Law Center, Holder said: “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.” Holder believes that current laws forbidding felons from voting make it harder for them to reintegrate into society. He pointed to a recent study, which showed that felons in Florida who were granted the right to vote again had a lower recidivism rate, that is, less of them committed new crimes. Holder does not have the authority to force Alaska or other states to changes their laws, but his statement could influence or create a debate to restore voting rights.
According to the attorney general, after the Civil War states instituted laws prohibiting ex-felons from voting as a way for post-Reconstruction states to keep blacks from casting ballots. Today, an estimate 5.8 million American are not allowed to vote because of current or previous felony convictions. Of those, nearly 38 percent are black.
Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr.’s speech can be found here.
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