Voter research in Alabama shows that 34 percent of black men have permanently lost the right to vote. Even more shocking, the research shows that in 10 years, that number will be higher than it has been since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Brian Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), was quoted by Al Jazeera in an article titled “Mass Incarceration and White Supremacy” about the impact mass incarceration is having on society:
“Mass incarceration,” he argues, “has radically changed society.” He speaks of urban communities, like Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington, where 50 percent of young black men are in prison, on parole or probation and where the disenfranchisement of convicted felons “has horrific implications for the political aspirations of people of colour.”
Stevenson points to the consequences of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law, which denied drug offenders eligibility for public housing, food stamps and other benefits, and that has had a disastrous impact on black women and children. Black women comprise half of the female prison population, although they are only 12 percent of the total population. Between 1986 and 1991, the number of black women incarcerated for drug offenses soared by 828 percent.
The article continues, blaming voting laws that disenfranchise people who’ve been convicted of a crime of being another tool of voter suppression.
These statistics are jarring and disheartening. If we fail to make the changes that will keep black men out of jail, then we are failing those who fought so hard to gain those rights. It’s our job.