Friday, February 15, 2013
Ann Cammett (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law) posted her article "Shadow Citizens: Felony Disenfranchisement and the Criminalization of Debt," 117 Penn State Law Review 349 (2012), on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The disenfranchisement of felons has long been challenged
as anti-democratic and disproportionately harmful to communities of color.
Critiques of this practice have led to the gradual liberalization of state laws
that expand voting rights for those who have served their sentences. Despite
these legal developments, ex-felons face an increasingly difficult path to
regaining the franchise. This article argues that, for ex-felons in particular,
criminal justice debt can serve as an insurmountable obstacle to the resumption
of voting rights and broader participation in society. This article uses the
term “carceral debt” to identify criminal justice penalties levied on
prisoners, “user fees” assessed to recoup the operating costs of the justice
system, and debt incurred during incarceration, including mounting child
In recent years, another disturbing voting rights challenge has emerged that has received little attention from scholars. State appellate and federal courts across the country have affirmed the constitutionality of statutes that require ex-felons to satisfy the payment of all carceral debts in order to resume voting privileges. Such a paradigm has a clearly differential impact on the poor: if only those who can pay their debts after a criminal conviction can regain the right to vote, those who cannot will remain perpetually disenfranchised, rendering them “shadow citizens” and raising a host of policy and constitutional questions.