Organizations working to restore formerly incarcerated peoples’ voting rights
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As millions of Americans casted their ballots last Tuesday, thousands were considered ineligible due to prior convictions.
In 2016, national organization, All of Us or None, started a chapter Kentucky dedicating themselves to uplift the voices of formerly incarcerated and directly impact people.
“This past election, we went inside the jails and registered over 170 people who were eligible, and I suspect we missed about 500 people,” said Savvy Shabazz, All of Us or None Kentucky President.
Shabazz is one example of directly impacted individuals who was denied their voting rights following the completion of their time behind bars. Shabazz was sentenced to 28 years for non-violent drug related charges.
Under Kentucky law, a recently incarcerated person will have their voting rights automatically restored after their sentence is completed.
In Shabazz’s case, the length of his sentence after his release prohibited him from voting.
“We are not saying we shouldn’t be punished, or we shouldn’t be sentenced, but 28 years a lot of time for a non-violent offense,” said Shabazz.
In 2019, Governor Andy Beshear issued an executive order restoring directly impacted people’s voting rights after they’ve completed their sentences.
“We have an over sentencing issue here in Kentucky, especially a lot in the rural counties,” said Shabazz. “I was sentenced in McCracken County to a total of 28 years for non-violent drug offenses. I served 5 and half years. I was released in 2011. Once I was released, my minimum release date was 2026. My maximum release date was 2032.”
All of Us or None also works to restore human rights and dignity of those formerly incarcerated. Shabazz says the language is important as they are working on programs and legislature to change the stigma.
“Convict, Inmates, felons and the list can go on,” said Shabazz. “We must humanize people. We like to replace that harmful language and place new language in. Formerly incarcerated people. Directly impacted people. System impacted people. People with lived experiences with incarceration. We just humanize people. That makes people more open for people to a part of their families and communities too.”
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