Voting And Recidivism

Mansfield Frazier (via Sara Mayeux)  reports that recidivism rates in Florida are lower for offenders who get back their right to vote post-incarceration.

According to a recent report by The Florida Parole Commission, “the overall three-year recidivism rate based on all released inmates” was 33..1, while the recidivism rate for released prisoners who were given their civil rights back and were allowed to vote stood at 11 percent.

These findings were not generated by a progressive organization such as The Sentencing Project, the ACLU, or the NAACP, but by a state governmental body utilizing exacting scientific methodologies.

The inescapable conclusion has to be that allowing formerly incarcerated persons to more fully participate in society will result in a reduction of crime and recidivism.

Well I wouldn't go that far. The study suggests that the formerly incarcerated who are reinfranchised are less likely to recidivate. Correlation is not causation. Under the Florida process, those convicted of certain crimes were granted automatic restoration of voting rights, while others had to apply under processes that had varying degrees of scrutiny based on the severity of their original crimes. It's possible that those who got their rights back in the first place, or managed to get them back after applying, represented a group less likely to recidiviate in the first place. It's also possible that reinfranchising them made them less likely to recidivate as well, but we don't know. 

I say that believing that there's little social value to restricting the franchise. People who have served their time should not continue to be punished by being denied a fundamental right post-incarceration, particularly since that right has absolutely no deterrent effect on the commission of future crimes. That's part of the reason why Florida Governor Rick Scott's decision to rescind the relatively lenient process his predecessor Charlie Crist had put in place, and make the formerly incarcerated wait five years before being eligible to reapply for restoration of their rights is so reprehensible. The decision won't impact public safety at all. But it is likely to disenfranchise individuals who are more likely to pull the lever for Democrats. It's just mean-spirited partisanship masquerading as toughness. 

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