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Felony disenfranchisement is an act of prohibiting felons from exercising their civil liberties (Danto 34). This practice has been present in the society for a long time as demonstrated by the Roman and Greek histories. The people convicted for serious crimes in such societies were deprived of their basic rights such as the right to own or claim any property. In the USA Virginia and Kentucky are the only states still perpetuating such practices by depriving felony convicts of the right to vote (Danto 56). This subject has initiated several ardent debates between the legislators and the human rights activists with each side justifying its stance on felony disenfranchisement.
The proponents of felony disenfranchisement argue that when an individual commits a crime, he or she has disregarded the basic social ties with the society. In this regard, preventing such individuals from participating in any public exercise including politics is justifiable (Danto 75). Felony disenfranchisement supporters base their arguments on the fact that felons lack ethical character and, thus, cannot be trusted with the society’s crucial matters. Therefore, they are not entitled to their civil rights. In addition, the felony disenfranchisement proponents claim that criminals have always proved to be unwilling to comply with the current laws. They doubt that felons can positively contribute in any meaningful public agenda and other activities such as voting.
In the past, only a few ex-felons have been actively involved in civic activities (Ewald 234). In this regard, the proponents of felony disenfranchisement believe that even if given a chance, most of the offenders will not vote at all. There has been a low rate of voting among ex-felons. The criminals’ lack of interest in most public forums has been attributed to this phenomenon. In the current society, there are certain essential requirements, which individuals have to meet in order to be entitled to various responsibilities and other participatory roles (Ewald 300). For instance, one has to be considered a law-abiding citizen with highly upheld moral standards in order to be an administrative leader. Thus, an individual becomes disqualified if he or she fails to meet this criterion. Similarly, our electoral system has valid terms and conditions required to be met by all voters (Ewald 456). If one fails to comply with these conditions, he or she is deprived of the chance to engage in any civil exercise. Most felons do not comply with these terms. In this regard, some states prohibit offenders from voting.
According to the retributive theory, felony restrictions are justified (Fukurai 235). The theory argues that since they have voluntarily committed the alleged crimes, they should be equally punished and their civil rights restricted. All felonies should be punished in order to mollify the moral laws. Therefore, those who uphold this theory suggest that there are no other appropriate means to punish offenders except by denying them their civil and other social rights. The supporters of felony disenfranchisement do not see the need of the re-enfranchisement efforts realized by the current human activist (Fukurai123).
It is arguable that denying offenders some of their rights is the best way to encourage them to abstain from criminal activities (Fukurai 345). It has been observed that most ex-offenders, aware of the criminal activities’ repercussions, ensure that they avoid any conflicts with the law. Hence, they are inspired to live a better life restoring their dignity in the society. Felony disenfranchisement may serve as a lesson to the members of the public, thus restraining them from perpetrating crime (Fukurai 143).
The opponents of felony voting restrictions argue that this practice is obsolete. In this regard, criminal’s values and principles should be integrated in the attempt to meet the current democratic ethics (Fukurai 126). According to the felony disenfranchisement antagonists, by denying criminals their right to vote, we are simply creating political outcasts from people who are either offenders or ex-offenders. Some of the ex-criminals assimilated into the society have proved to be law-abiding. Therefore, ex-felons should be treated like other citizens (Hull 125). The failure in this regard is viewed as a way of compromising the electoral system and the black votes since the majority of the ex-felons come from the African-American population. Felon disenfranchisement is viewed as a way of promoting certain political objectives based on racial and economic factors (Hull 345). This does not only affect the felons, but also weakens the society with the greatest number of felons. In this regard, the American constitution has been amended in consideration to the African-American civil liberties (Hull 300).
Research has shown that disenfranchisement compromises the criminals’ rehabilitation process as it encourages their overgeneralization (Manza 203). The individuals considered as felons in the society have committed diverse crimes. Some have committed grave crimes while others have committed minor ones. By grouping all these individuals together as ex-offenders, we generalize them under the same crimes (Manza 238). Through disenfranchisement, felons perceive that they are ‘bad people’ in the society. This perception may significantly compromise their rehabilitation (Noguera 75). Similarly, felons start perceiving themselves as outcasts when they are denied the opportunity to engage actively in community matters (Manza 206). Because of stigmatization, they become isolated, which may significantly affect them psychologically. Due to their psychological alignment, they tend to oppose the administrative rule, which puts them into constant conflicts with the administrators. Psychologists have demonstrated that ex-felons encounter numerous challenges in their lives because of disenfranchisement (Noguera 280). Many ex-criminals, after being re-enfranchised, do not exercise their civil rights of voting (Noguera 285). They have to re-register in order to be allowed to participate in the electoral process. To most of the ex-offenders, the process is rather time consuming since they are preoccupied with the rehabilitation process, reconnecting with relatives, and possibly looking for a job.
It has been noted that felony disenfranchisement and other forms of restrictions that prohibit ex-criminals from actively engaging in the civil issues prevent them from living productive lives (Noguera 43). Activists consider that civil rights denial to some individuals is a cruel and inhuman way of punishment. The most common effect of disenfranchisement is the inability of felons to vote. When they fail to vote, the political system does not reflect their interests. Felons have exceptional concerns regarding their lives, especially after leaving prison, that need to be addressed by the political class.
Disenfranchisement has significantly affected teenagers who might have committed offences without the full awareness of their act’s gravity. These teenagers, at their tender age, fail to understand the impact of being deprived of civil rights. It is only later in life that the reality dawns on them (Pettus 60). Voting restriction is normally considered as a way through which government administrators perpetuate their tyranny. In this regard, felony disenfranchisement should never be advocated for.
To discourage recidivism, criminals should be actively involved in societal activities. Therefore, felon disenfranchisement ought to be completely banned in society (Pettus 67).
The felons’ involvement in the community will make them feel as part of the society. This will enhance their resolve to become better people. The offenders sentenced to community service were observed to become more social and interactive in the community than those who spent their entire sentence in prison. The ex-felons involved in community volunteering service are less likely to commit other crimes compared to those who spend their term in prison. This suggests that community involvement is advantageous to ex-criminals and the society as it will lead to the crime reduction.
On a conceptual note, re-enfranchising enhance the trust and efficacy of ex-felons. In most institutions and in the political arena, once a person regains civil liberties through re-enfranchising, he or she gains more trust from colleagues. In this regard, that person’s productivity will dramatically increase benefiting the institution (Pettus 34). In the political scene, the law has barred some of the prospective leaders from vying for various legislative posts. Through re-enfranchisement, they become eligible. This illustrates how the civil rights restoring has significantly contributed in the people’s assimilation back to society. In this regard, positive impacts have been noted in the rehabilitation processes contrary to when voting rights were prohibited.
Although there are genuine issues concerning felons, enfranchisement is unlikely to help in their rehabilitation process. By isolating them from voting, our country does not gain anything. All individuals in the society, regardless of their moral backgrounds, should be allowed to exercise their voting right. In this regard, the community as a whole will be represented in the political system. In addition, ex-felons should be allowed to engage actively in the community by being allowed to pay taxes and own property. These serious considerations require that all the American states should fully review their enfranchisement policies, which may compel the society to grant the ex-criminals their denied human rights and other civil liberties. The Americans’ perception on John Locke’s ideology is currently dying out as many people view the ideas of strict political and law orders as tyranny which should not take place in the modern society.