Saturday, May 4, 2019

Should Prisoners Vote?

Prison is not a place I ever intend to be. Prison by definition requires a reduction in or elimination of rights and privileges that everyone else takes for granted.

You can't freely pursue heterosexual relations with men or women that you find attractive. You're surrounded by dangerous scumbags of your own gender. The only folks around of the opposite gender likely have serious authority over you. Some of them crave any excuse to brutalize you and brag about it to their buddies.You're in prison. No one is that concerned about your pursuit of happiness.You can't get up or go to bed when you want. You're in prison. You can't shower, brush your teeth, urinate or defecate in private. You're in prison. You can't eat what you want. You're in prison. 

If you irritate or "threaten" a guard, warden or other prison employee, you might be assaulted or forced into solitary confinement.There's nothing you can do about this. You're in prison. You might be made to work at jobs that bore you for little or no pay. You can't quit or find a different job. You're in prison.You can't leave unless and until the state or federal government says you can leave.You're in prison. Prison is not supposed to be a pleasant experience. That's the point. You shouldn't want to come back. That said, even though a person is imprisoned there are still some basic rights the state theoretically has to recognize and protect. 

The state can't or rather the state shouldn't torture or murder prisoners. The state shouldn't turn a blind eye to sexual abuse of or rape of prisoners, whether by state employees or other prisoners.The state can't force inmates to change religions or prevent them, within reason, from practicing their religion while incarcerated. Should voting also be one of those fundamental rights that remain protected even for prisoners? Senator Bernie Sanders thinks so.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in early April became the first Democratic presidential candidate to champion extending voting rights to people currently behind bars, and he's since been pressured on whether he even supports enfranchising people convicted of crimes like terrorism or sexual assault.

Sanders has said he supports voting rights for all US citizens, even if they're "terrible people," contending that disenfranchising any group of Americans is a slippery slope.
At a town hall in Muscatine, Iowa earlier this month, Sanders was asked whether he thought people who are incarcerated at present should have the right to vote.

"I think that is absolutely the direction we should go," Sanders replied, according to the Des Moines Register.

"In my state, what we do is separate. You're paying a price, you committed a crime, you're in jail. That's bad," he said. "But you're still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do."

It's up to states whether or not current or former inmates are allowed to vote. In Vermont, felons maintain voting rights regardless of whether they're incarcerated, but it varies from state to state.

During a CNN town hall on Monday, Sanders was asked if he'd even support enfranchising domestic terrorists such as the Boston Marathon bomber."If somebody commits a serious crime, sexual assault, murder, they're going to be punished. They may be in jail 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, their whole life," Sanders said in response. "That's what happens when you commit a serious crime."

"But I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away…you're running down a slippery slope," Sanders added. "I believe even if they are in jail, they're paying the price to society, that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.


I think that the US incarcerates too many people. I think that after you've served your time that you ought to have voting rights restored, no questions asked, no hoops to jump through, and no one asking you to tell them how many bubbles are in a bar of soap before you can can vote. I think that the US prison industrial complex runs on black bodies, particularly black male ones. I think all of this is obvious to anyone with open eyes.
But I also think that if you've committed serious felonies like rape, murder, child abuse, assault, burglary, carjacking, or driving way under the speed limit in the left lane, you really have shown that you need to be removed from society for a period of time for everyone's safety. And since you're not strictly speaking part of society for that time, then no you don't get to vote while you're in prison.
When you're better, we'll welcome you back--maybe not with open arms but either way you're part of "us" again. I would focus on preventing so many people from going to prison in the first place before I would accept letting murderers vote. We also don't let murderers, even released ones, legally purchase firearms.

What's your take on Senator Sanders' idea?

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