Open Letter to the Louisiana House of Representatives: Support Reentry- Ban the Box and Restore the Right to Vote!
Dear House and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Michael Danahay,
Members of the Committee, and Members of the House:
Representative Danahay, your sponsorship of a bill to create three additional re-entry courts in Louisiana (HB 347) indicates you understand and wish to alleviate some of the challenges faced by people who are convicted of crimes. Once convicted, people face discrimination throughout all aspects of their life, including 389 different employment barriers, systemic housing discrimination, family interference, and lost voting rights. The message transmitted to people living in the community with convictions has been an anti-social eviction from mainstream society.
On Wednesday, your committee will hear two bills that would send a different message: 'We support your hard work to find a job and we encourage you to do your civic duty and vote.'
Banning the Box on state job applications (HB 266) and restoring voting rights to people on probation and parole (HB 598) will cost the state nothing. Both of these provisions will reduce recidivism and save the state money.
Louisiana has 2.8 million individuals in its criminal records database. Among the people living in the community with a criminal record, most never went to prison, yet face a lifetime of discrimination that was never mentioned by the sentencing judge. Some of this discrimination is personal and some is policy, including the employment barriers and the disenfranchisement of 70,000 people on probation and parole. Studies show that people who have a stable home, are working, and are getting to the polls on election day have a massive reduction in criminal activity.
Felon disenfranchisement is rooted in barring people who might impact elections through forgery, bribery, or perjury at a time when paper ballots and oaths were essential to fair elections. There was a rational relationship between the crimes and the barred activity. Today, there is no relationship between disenfranchisement and fair elections, and the law has only served to promote anti-social behavior, create massive disenfranchisement among Black people, and disrupt the natural progression of teaching civic responsibility from parent to child.
Please encourage your Committee to promote pro-social behavior by voting in favor of banning the box on state job applications and re-enfranchising people on probation and parole. This will encourage people to seek work and vote, whether they are reentering from prison or walked home from the courthouse under the weight of a conviction. We need to create an environment where we give everyone a place to contribute. If we can’t embrace those who want to be part of society, we are shooting all our reentry courts and programs in the foot.
House and Governmental Affairs Committee
Danahay, Michael E. Chairman Dist. 33 D (337)527-5581 firstname.lastname@example.org
Pugh, Stephen E. Vice Chair Dist. 73 R (985)386-7844 email@example.com
Carter, Gary Member Dist. 102 D (504)361-6600 firstname.lastname@example.org
Harris, Lance Member Dist. 25 R (318)767-6095 email@example.com
Harris, Jimmy Member Dist. 99 D (504)243-1960 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hill, Dorothy Sue Member Dist. 32 D (800)259-2118 email@example.com
Ivey, Barry Member Dist. 65 R (225)261-5739 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenkins, Sam Member Dist. 2 D (318)632-5970 email@example.com
Miller, Gregory A. Member Dist. 56 R (985)764-9991 firstname.lastname@example.org
Morris, John C. "Jay" Member Dist. 14 R (318)362-4270 email@example.com
Schroder, John M. Member Dist. 77 R (985)893-6262 firstname.lastname@example.org
Shadoin, Robert E. Member Dist. 12 R (318)251-5039 email@example.com
Barras, Taylor F. Ex Officio Dist. 48 R (337)373-4051 firstname.lastname@example.org
Leger, Walt III Ex Officio Dist. 91 D (504)556-9970 email@example.com