Press Release  | 09/15/2008

Advocates Launch Historic Drive to Register Eligible Alabama Voters, Including Those Convicted of Felony Drug Possession

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Families, Formerly Incarcerated People, Religious Leaders, Treatment and Sentencing Experts Declare: Don

In Alabama, nearly 250,000 people have been stripped their voting rights due to a felony conviction. But in a 2006 court ruling in Alabama, a judge found that only those persons convicted of felonies of "moral turpitude" lose their right to vote. The judge found that certain felonies--such as drug possession--do not constitute crimes of moral turpitude, and therefore individuals convicted of those crimes do not lose their right to vote, even during incarceration.

Alabama-based The Ordinary People's Society and their national partner the Drug Policy Alliance estimate that over 50,000 people convicted of non-moral turpitude felonies in Alabama have been wrongly denied their right to vote, or believe they do not have that right due to a conviction. An additional 6 -- 7,000 more people currently incarcerated in Alabama state prisons may also be eligible to vote.

Join Dothan-based The Ordinary People's Society and their national partner the Drug Policy Alliance on their statewide tour to discuss Alabama's drug war and its impact on democracy.

What:
"Voter Disfranchisement and the War On Drugs: What's Civil Right's Got to Do With It?"

When:
9/15 -- 9/19. Each event begins at 6 p.m .

Where:
9/15 in Huntsville; 9/16 in Birmingham; 9/17 in Mobile; 9/18 in Dothan; 9/19 in Montgomery. Each event begins at 6 p.m. Call for event locations.

Who:
Rev. Kenneth Glasgow. Founder and Executive Director, The Ordinary People's Society (TOPS). (Dothan, AL)

Daris Johnson. Director, TOPS Young People's Project. (Enterprise, AL)

Gabriel Sayegh. Director, Organizing and Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance (New York, NY)

Alabama is facing a crisis. The state has the 6th highest rate of incarceration in the U.S. A prison system designed for 12,500 people now holds nearly 30,000. As a result of the drug war, non-violent drug offenses make up approximately 30% of all felony convictions in Alabama, and people convicted of non-violent drug and property offenses comprise nearly half of the state's prison population. Nearly 50% of prisoners are serving prison time for a drug related crime. And over 250,000 people are barred from voting due to felony disfranchisement laws. A recent court ruling, however, found that people convicted of drug possession, among other offenses, do not lose their right to vote. This change could have an impact on nearly 70,000 Alabamians, including nearly 10,000 currently incarcerated in state prisons.

While drug use is equal across all racial groups, Black people are incarcerated for drug crimes at higher rates than whites. Blacks make up only 26% of Alabama's population, but are nearly 60% of the prison population. And for every white person in an Alabama jail, there are about 4 Black people.

Alabama is spending millions to incarcerate people when treatment is more effective and far cheaper. The average cost to keep a person in prison in Alabama is almost $13,000 per year. The average cost of a full treatment program per client is approximately $4,300. Over time, the savings from treatment are significant: Studies by the RAND Corporation have show that every additional dollar invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs.

"We've got to start restoring people's lives, by providing treatment, by restoring the right to vote," said Reverend Kenneth Glasgow, Executive Director of The Ordinary People's Society and state coordinator of the New Bottom Line Campaign. "When a person get's a felony conviction, they can lose more than their voting rights, they can lose public assistance, public housing, financial aid for school. The drug war became a war on people and we spend more on incarceration than on treatment. Why do we spend more on producing criminals than producing citizens? We need a new bottom line."

In 2005, according to the Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Services, the substance abuse statistics for the state of Alabama stated:

Alcohol

  • 246,000 people had alcohol dependency
  • Total admissions for alcohol rehabilitation and treatment was 2,427
  • Less than 1% (actually.009%) of Alabamians received treatment for alcohol

Other Drug Abuse

  • 113,000 people had drug dependency other than alcohol
  • Total admissions for drug rehabilitation and treatment was 12,645
  • 11% of those needing treatment were provided with treatment



Ken Glasgow at 334-791-2433 or gabriel sayegh at 646-335-2264

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