Restoring democracy, restoring dignity

Raymond Walker, a second chance entrepreneur that we met in our in-prison workshop who returned home in 2020, recently completed parole and is now a free man.

We asked Raymond, what are you looking forward to now that you are no longer on parole? He said, “Voting.” 

In Missouri & Kansas, a person loses their right to vote when they are convicted of a felony. This is known as “felony disenfranchisement.” They can regain their right to vote after completing the terms of their sentence, including parole, by registering to vote, a process that Raymond is going through right now. 

“I want to put my two cents in,” said Raymond. “The last time I voted was when Obama ran the first time. I look forward to voting again so I know that I did my part.” 

2020 study found that in Missouri, 95,485 people statewide were barred from voting because of felony disenfranchisement laws — 2% of the state’s voting-age population. Of that number, nearly 68,000 were serving probation or parole. In Kansas, 21,256 people with a felony conviction were barred from voting. Close to 10,000 of those people were on probation or parole.

While the deadline has passed to register to vote in November’s election, if you know of anyone who has completed parole and not yet registered, please send them the links to register online in Missouri or Kansas (in KS, you must complete parole and pay all fines and fees associated with the sentence). 

We want to thank our nonprofit friends at More Squared for everything they’ve done in the community in the past year to register our formerly incarcerated brothers and sisters to vote. Read more about their efforts here. They gave us a pro tip: after a formerly incarcerated person has registered to vote, they should check their voter registration status in Missouri & Kansas to make sure their application has not been flagged in the system. If the application has been flagged, call the local election board office and they will tell you how to provide proof that you have successfully completed parole.  

Voting is about a lot more than checking a box. It’s about belonging. It’s about participating in our democracy and feeling like you have a voice. And studies also show that voting for formerly incarcerated people is a part of a “package of pro-social behavior that is linked to desistance from crime.”

Now that’s something we can all vote for. 

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Determination, Incorporated is a 501C3 nonprofit in KCMO empowering formerly incarcerated people to seize employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in home building, home improvement, and affordable housing. To learn more, contact us here.

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