This week was a cool mix of Yins and Yangs. An interest in thing happened in class last week that caused a ripple I didn’t fully appreciate until this week. As before, I mentioned that I’m in a class with students from the University of Washington and we are working on a project to introduce the conversation of inmate voter enfranchisement. There are a ridiculous amount of pro reasons, constitutional support findings, Maine and Vermont do it, and other states and territories have laws starting this conversation. Some countries see voting for inmates as a human rights issue. And there is opposition. Within the last decade, Massachusetts rescinded the right once offered to inmates. Most states firmly disagree that any law breaker should be involved with law making. But surely inmates would be all for it, right? Not exactly. 

Some inmates, in particular one on our team, didn’t support the position. He feels his life’s errors have caused such punishment. He’s a conservative African American, born in the deep south in the early 50s. To me, someone who knows the Jim Crow era so intimately would be all about never being subjugated in voice. Ever. While I initially struggled internally with his position, the light bulb went off… If his position doesn’t speak directly to the process of repentance, and thus rehabilitation, I don’t know what would. The fact that he feels he has nothing coming means he’s acknowledged his wrongs to a degree enough that he’s ok with the loss of rights. But, this department is one of “corrections”. They put it in the title. So why wouldn’t society want a fully rehabilitated citizen? A human capable of civic engagement. It was some fascinating dialog outside of class and some food for thought…

Class was ended with Dead Ed Taylor’s observation of our day’s work. He quoted some extremely moving historical figures and tied them into how he sees them relating to us. It was some of the most powerful words I’ve ever heard and he did it on the fly, just through his observations. I firmly understand why he holds the position he holds and rest easy Washington, your next round of great leaders are being trained by other great leaders. By and large, we have our presentation ready for next week and we have been fueled with inspiration. Next week here we come!

by Rory Andes

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