VIDEO: League of Women Voters speaker believes felons need second chance at jobs, voting
WILLMAR -- Justice 4 All, a Twin Cities-based organization, promotes giving the thousands of Minnesotans with criminal records a second chance at becoming productive members of society.
WILLMAR - Justice 4 All, a Twin Cities-based organization, promotes giving the thousands of Minnesotans with criminal records a second chance at becoming productive members of society.
Justin Terrell, program manager for Justice 4 All, gave a presentation Monday at Bethel Lutheran Church on behalf of his campaign.
“We want to make sure people are stepping out, rather than stepping back into their old ways,” Terrell said during Monday’s presentation during a League of Women Voters meeting.
A total of nearly 60,000 people were turned away from polls in the 2014 election due to felony convictions, according to a New York University study.
Unclear voting laws prevent even more felons from voting in Minnesota, said Jessica Rohloff, leader of League of Women Voters.
“I imagine there are people who are afraid and don’t want to get their second felony,” Rohloff said. “We need to make this simpler.”
Minnesota law requires felons to complete incarceration time, along with any probation and parole time, before they can vote.
Justice 4 All’s mission is to allow those with a criminal record the right to vote as soon as they are released from prison or jail, as is the case in several other states.
A disproportionate number of those not allowed to vote in Minnesota are also African-American, Terrell said.
While only 5.7 percent of Minnesota’s population is African-American, 34.6 percent of Minnesota’s prison population is African-American, according to data from the U.S. Census and Minnesota Department of Corrections.
“This is insane. Systems are at play creating these kinds of dynamics,” Terrell said. “If it’s a problem people made, it’s a problem people can solve.”
Mayor Marv Calvin attended Monday’s presentation and agreed that felons should have the right to vote once they are out in the community.
“I think people should look at this issue and get involved by contacting representatives,” Calvin said. “I think it is an important issue. If you are not incarcerated, you should be able to vote.”
Terrell said Justice 4 All hopes to achieve its goals by spreading the word, taking risks and having hope.
“It’s important that we try to dream of this together,” Terrell said. “That is why we run these campaigns.”
Rohloff said the entire community will benefit if felons are allowed the right to vote.
“This is a pathway to reducing crime. You’re much less likely to reoffend if you have a job and are voting,” Rohloff said.
Justice 4 All and the League of Women Voters encourages those interested in the cause to contact their political representatives.
More information can also be found at takeactionminnesota.org.
“I want to put the power of government back into the hands of the people,” Aaron Abram, program organizer for Justice 4 All, said. “We are an organization that empowers other people. We’re not the ones making the calls, you are.”