America's Broken Promise
The Impact of Felon Disenfranchisement on the Black Community
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2003), the unemployment rate for black males age sixteen and older was 11 percent in 2002, compared to 5.5 percent for white males of the same age group. Despite the good intention of these programs, the civil rights and civic role of black men will continue to be undervalued until policymakers address the problem of arbitrary and discriminatory customs and laws, such as the felon disenfranchisement law. Disenfranchisement laws not only restrict American citizens from exercising their constitutional right to vote, but also dilutes the franchise of the African American community. This book attempts to close the gap between the strategies proposed and the desired results by examining the issue of felon disenfranchisement and its impact on the political marginalization of black men.
As of 2002, varying forms of felon disenfranchisement laws exist in 47 states. Currently more than one million ex-offenders are disenfranchised. It is estimated that 13 percent of all black men of eligible voting age are legally restricted from voting. Because felon disenfranchisement disproportionately affects black males, some critics contend that these laws were specifically created to limit power of the black vote. Throughout America's history criminals have been denied the franchise, but it wasn't until after the Civil War, in response to Reconstruction and the 14th and 15th Amendments that most Southern states enacted "legal codes" specifically designed to deny Southern blacks the vote.
Congress, through the Civil Rights Act of 1965, and the Supreme Court have prohibited all disenfranchisement laws except the disenfranchisement of criminal offenders. As of 2000, for example, Alabama had permanently removed 241, 000 people from the franchise, of which approximately 32 percent are black males. That such a large portion of African American...
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