Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen

in Locked Out

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780195149326
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199943975 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Crime and Public Policy


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This chapter begins by reviewing arguments that supporters of felon disenfranchisement have used to frame the public debate. But the contemporary arguments in support of felon disenfranchisement do not help us understand how these laws came into existence in the first place. We must instead look to the legal, political, and historical record to understand how we got to this point. The denial of political rights to criminal offenders can be found under very different types of democratic (and protodemocratic) regimes, and the practice has been a hot topic of philosophical debates since at least Aristotle. Understanding this history requires exploration of premodern political regimes and legal systems, classical philosophical writings, and their enduring traces in contemporary legal and political discourses. That is the goal of this chapter. But before exploring how and why societies disenfranchise, we must first ask why the right to vote became—and has remained—a bedrock of democratic governance.

Keywords: felon disenfranchisement; political rights; criminal offenders; right to vote; democratic governance

Chapter.  9701 words. 

Subjects: Social Theory

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