Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

February 22, 2014

Obama's attorney general Americanized

(Continued)

On Feb. 11, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University school of Law reported on Holder’s “great step forward on restoring voting rights.”

On that day, the attorney general “urged states to restore voting rights to people of past criminal convictions.” To be covered, the Brennan Center explained, are “those who have completed probation, parole and paid all fines. Many states already go further than this and restore rights upon release from incarceration.”

But Myrna Perez, Democracy Program Deputy Director, reminds us that “Nearly 6 million Americans are barred from voting because of a criminal conviction in their past.”

And dig this: “Three states permanently disenfranchise the citizens.”

Calling Eric Holder’s pledge “a significant step forward for democracy,” she makes the important point that “citizens with criminal convictions who are living and working in our communities should have the responsibility and the right to participate in our democracy by voting.

“Congress should act quickly to pass the Democracy Restoration Act, which would restore voting rights and federal elections to those who have served their time.” This Congress? Where a majority of both parties are less concerned with strengthening real-time democracy than with dominating the civil war in the House and Senate?

Moreover, adds Nicole Austin-Hillery, director of the Brennan Center’s Washington office: “With the largest prison population in the world and millions of Americans caught in a system of mass incarceration, ensuring that former offenders can fully regain their core rights as American citizens is a vital means of reducing recidivism, by integrating them back into society.”

As I will report in detail later, a new book by Doran Larson presents a collection of essays written by prisoners across America. In “Fourth City: Essays From the Prisons in America,” (Michigan State University Press), Larson tells you in his introduction:

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