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Felon disenfranchisement has a long history in the United States, beginning with Jim Crow Laws, continuing with mass incarceration, and increasing with voter suppression policies and laws being created on a daily basis. This paper will include a brief history of voting suppression and how felony convictions and incarceration create further obstacles for individuals choosing to share their voices and elect officials who represent them within the government. Theories involved in this research include labeling, anomie, citizenship, and both social control and social conflict and combined will demonstrate how the criminal justice works to control individuals under supervision, so much so that former offenders struggle to obtain basic necessities and often times do not have the time or energy to become more civically engaged. I conducted a qualitative study with five participants who identified as felons. Findings will demonstrate that offenders within the system are provided minimal access to their voting rights and supervision is maintained at an extremely high level in an attempt to curb recidivism. This research will also show that despite barriers in place, described by the history and examples provided by literature and interviews, individuals choose to vote because of their family and community support and connections. My thesis concludes with a discussion concerning the control that is found within the criminal justice system, how this leads to lack of information and basic necessities being provided, and how this system creates further barriers for persons wishing to become more civically involved within the election process. I recommend actions that can be taken at local and national levels and how society can better receive and support individuals who have been incarcerated and/or have felony convictions.


Felon; disenfranchisement; voting; suppression; Jim Crow; anomie; labeling; social control; recidivism