Press Release

State Legislators and Advocates Urge Restoration of Voting Rights to Residents with Felonies

The Sentencing Project’s newest brief on Massachusetts voting rights laws expose racial inequality in the state criminal-legal system.

Related to: Voting Rights, Racial Justice, State Advocacy

Boston, Massachusetts  – Today The Sentencing Project in collaboration with Democracy Behind Bars Coalition (DBBC), and the African American Coalition Committee of MCI-Norfolk (AACC) hosted a joint virtual press call featuring state senator Liz Miranda, and state representative Erika Uyterhoeven. The purpose of the press call was to provide background on Senate Bill 8 and House Bill 26, discuss the findings of The Sentencing Project’s recently published report on Massachusetts voting laws that ban citizens from voting, and included the personal perspectives of the AACC leadership, which is comprised of currently incarcerated advocates.

“Restoring voting rights to every voting age citizen in Massachusetts, regardless of their involvement in the criminal-legal system is not just a matter of justice, but it is a fundamental step towards building a true representative democracy that reflects the diversity of our country,” said Nicole D. Porter, senior director of advocacy at The Sentencing Project. “By restoring the right to vote to people with felonies, Massachusetts will empower citizens and communities of color whose members are disproportionately banned from voting to actively engage in shaping the policies that impact their lives, rather than further diluting their voices.”

“Disenfranchisement of people who are incarcerated in Massachusetts is a grave injustice that undercuts democratic ideals and maintains racial inequities, particularly affecting Black and Latinx communities,” said state senator Liz Miranda, sponsor of S.8. “In addition to silencing their voices, depriving almost 7,700 residents of their ability to vote due to incarceration for a felony conviction disproportionately impacts people of color, further solidifying the racial biases of the criminal justice system into the electoral system. Voting rights restoration is critical to advancing racial justice, bolstering democracy, and aiding in the reintegration of those impacted by the criminal system into society.”

“The right to vote for incarcerated individuals isn’t just about restoring a silenced political voice since 2000; it’s a vital rehabilitative measure,” said Joshua “Hamza” Berrios, an organizer with the AACC. “”In carceral settings, political representation is scarce, and we are often overlooked. As an AACC member at MCI-Norfolk, I have learned the importance of voting rights and their impact on policies affecting Black and Latinx communities.”

“The best doctors listen to their patients. The best teachers listen to their students. The best parents listen to their children. And the most responsive government listens to their people, ALL of their people,” said Corey “Al-Ameen” Patterson, former chair of the AACC.

“The momentum around universal voting rights is a testament to the leadership and advocacy of incarcerated people across Massachusetts,”  said Caroline Sullivan, an organizer with the DBBC. “The DBBC and AACC recognize the power of collaboration between elected officials, national groups like The Sentencing Project, community organizations, and currently and formerly incarcerated advocates. After all, it should be the individuals who are most impacted by public policy informing the political debates around it.”

The Sentencing Project’s groundbreaking research on the devastating impacts of voting bans spans the United States, providing detailed, valuable insights on voting laws in the states. The most recent report on Massachusetts highlights the deeply entrenched racial inequity sown by regressive voting policies.

Significant data highlights include:

  1. Over 7,700 Massachusetts citizens are banned from voting in elections due to a 2000 Constitutional amendment stripping incarcerated people with felony convictions of their right to vote while incarcerated.
  2. Less than 7% of the state’s population is Black, but 31% of the prison population is Black. Similarly, less than 13% of the state’s population is Latinx, but they make up 29% of the prison population.
  3. Black residents are eight times as likely as white residents to lose their right to vote due to imprisonment; Latinx residents are more than five times likely.

To read the full report visit The Sentencing Project.

About the African American Coalition Committee of MCI-Norfolk (AACC)
The AACC, formerly known as the Black Rights Committee, was founded as a prison-based group within MCI-Norfolk in 1972. Today, the AACC focuses on dismantling systemic racial inequities within the criminal legal system and uplifting and training men of color to improve their lives both inside and outside the walls.

About The Democracy Behind Bars Coalition (DBBC)
The Democracy Behind Bars Coalition (DBBC) is a coalition of advocacy and community organizations, direct service and religious groups, and individuals committed to ensuring that democracy does not stop at prisons and jails in Massachusetts. Visit us at

About The Sentencing Project
The Sentencing Project advocates for effective and humane responses to crime that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic, economic, and gender justice. www.sentencing

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