Dear Family, Friends, and Supporters,
For some time we have been grappling with the problem of social reintegration of ex-offenders. I have been involved with the Tarrant County Reentry Initiative since its inception to try and help pave the way for those released from prison.
Nationally, an estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions. This encompasses 13% of the African-American male population.
As a Previously Incarcerated Person (PIP), Eddie Griffin understands how important it is for a PIP to become vested in society, considering that most offenders feel alienated from society. By participating in the democratic process, a PIP gains a new perception of society, a new sense of social and human worth, and a sense of self-empowerment. Most of all, it gives him or her voice in the governing of our society. On the other hand, a disenfranchised PIP is a recidivist waiting to happen.
The national campaign to help ex-offenders reenter society and regain their lives, dignity, and the right to vote has been spreading in recent years. From the Whitehouse, to the Congress, to the State Legislature, to the County Commission, everyone concurs that the best way to reduce crime and build safer communities we must put build a mechanism for ex-offenders to reintegrate into society. The rate of recidivism is around 60%.
But the movement to enfranchise the disenfranchised has been so in going.
In 2005 Iowa’s governor issued an executive order restoring voting rights to all persons who had completed a felony sentence, and the Nebraska legislature adopted a measure that replaced a lifetime voting ban with a two-year post-sentence waiting period for people with felony convictions. In 2006, Connecticut, Florida, and Tennessee changed their rights restoration procedures to promote registration by eligible voters with felony convictions. (Source: Sentencing Project).
Florida's ban was written into the state constitution after the Civil War, and regaining the right was nearly impossible for decades. Hundreds of thousands of clemency applicants were rejected, leaving nearly 1 million Floridians unable to vote in the 2004 presidential election, according to the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group.
Since the law was changed, the ACLU and People for the American Way have been reaching out to ex-offenders through Web sites that help people figure out whether the state has acted on their cases. (“For Those Once Behind Bars, A Nudge to the Voting Booth”, Krissah Williams Thompson, Washington Post)
Previously, I reported "Over 100,000 Ex-Offenders Restored Voter Rights in Florida", based upon an article entitled "New Florida Rules Return More Than 115,000 Ex-Offenders to Voting Rolls" by Damien Cave and Christine Jordan Sexton, The New York Times.
The challenge now facing us in this campaign is getting these ex-offenders registered to vote. I received this email asking my help.
Hello Mr. Griffin,
My name is Rachael Scandarion. I am a Florida volunteer building a grassroots effort that identifies and engages both disenfranchised and RCR ex-offenders statewide in Registering to Vote.
I have obtained a database list of ex-offenders from the Florida Parole Commission that has 345,000 names of RCR Clemencies granted through 7.25.08.
While this database does not contain phone or address contacts for the listings, it does have name, DOB, Executive Order #'s, and date clemency granted.
I need help in expeditiously identifying a means by which to cross-reference the names on this list with other databases of contact info: phone numbers, street addresses, whatever means are possible to contact those on the database.
I have a substantial base of volunteers who are ready to help make contact with the intent of holding ceremonies, where these citizens of our country are re-engaged throughout Florida in a day of statewide events that will celebrate their restoration of rights as citizens with dignity and respect and to provide them with the opportunity to Register to Vote - much like naturalization ceremonies for those becoming citizens.
For obvious reasons, time is of the essence in this matter in order to ensure that they are all registered in time to be a part of this most critical general election. Could you please contact me at your soonest convenience and advise me if you can assist me or if you know of another organization or individual who can help me.
I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible. Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter. I remain,
Very Truly Yours,
"We Must Be The Change We Wish To See In The World."
~ M. Gandhi
I would like to call upon you for your help in this campaign. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
From Freedmen Bureau Archives: A list of African-American prisoners in the Texas State Penitentiary, 1867. See the petty and fabricated crimes penned against ex-slaves during the Reconstruction Era. This is how the Texas penal system began.