New Yorkers on parole launch two-day voting rights education drive for formerly incarcerated people in Cleveland

Friday, September 30, 2016

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Contact:  Colleen Roche 212-329-1413
LAK Public Relations

NEW YORKERS ON PAROLE LAUNCH TWO-DAY VOTING RIGHTS EDUCATION DRIVE FOR FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE IN CLEVELAND

The Fortune Society, in partnership with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and criminal justice reform philanthropist Francis J. Greenburger, highlight restrictive voting regulations & barriers formerly incarcerated people face when trying to reenter society

(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – CLEVELAND, OHIO) On Monday, October 3, 2016, a group of New Yorkers who are on felony parole and who cannot vote in the upcoming presidential election will drive from Harlem in New York City to Cleveland, Ohio to raise awareness surrounding voting rights for formerly incarcerated people. Ohio permits people on parole to vote, while New York does not.  (See note for full explanation.)

The two-day educational initiative, which is taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 4 and 5, was organized by the New York City-based Fortune Society (Fortune) in partnership with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOC) and Francis J. Greenburger, founder of the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice.  Fortune is one of the most respected criminal justice reentry agencies in the nation.

Fortune clients and staff who are on parole, most of whom are gainfully employed taxpayers, will work in teams with OOC canvassers. Stationed at various locations throughout Cleveland, including The Justice Center, the Public Square, and the Burton Bell Carr Development, they will encourage formerly incarcerated citizens to register to vote and discuss the importance of voting during this election.  This nonpartisan community education initiative highlights the restrictive voting regulations and significant barriers that formerly incarcerated people face when trying to reenter society and participate as citizens.

Interestingly, Ohio law precludes anyone on parole from distributing voter registration applications or assisting in registering someone to vote.  The individuals from Fortune will therefore be limited in the kind of outreach they can do.

JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society said, “Against the backdrop of this election as both candidates try to address problems plaguing American cities, it is critically important that the voices of these disenfranchised people be heard. Restricting voting rights does nothing to prevent crime and can be harmful to long-term prospects for sustainable reintegration into society.”

Mr. Greenburger, said, “Now more than ever, all citizens should be allowed to make their voices heard through the democratic process. Working in partnership with The Fortune Society and local community leaders, The Greenburger Center is proud to help returning citizens participate in the election of our country’s next president and to ensure that all eligible Ohio residents are afforded the right to vote. Every ballot counts, and these men and women are fulfilling their obligation as U.S. citizens to vote, taking on an active role in shaping the outcome of this November’s decision.”

“We talk to people every day who don’t realize they have the right to vote because of an old arrest or conviction,” says Tramaine Medley, a community canvasser with Ohio Organizing Collaborative. “I’m out here because I think everybody’s voice deserves to be heard; our government won’t reflect the will of the people if the people don’t vote.”

While voting rights vary from state to state, according to the Sentencing Project, 5.85 million Americans are prohibited from voting due to laws that disenfranchise citizens convicted of felony offenses.

Ms. Page also noted that each of the New York people on parole has been granted permission by the NYS Division of Parole to travel to Ohio for this community education project.

NOTE:  In Ohio, the right to vote is restored when a person with a felony conviction has completed the term of incarceration.  A person with a felony conviction in New York can vote only after completing the maximum sentence of incarceration or after being discharged from parole supervision. While on parole, if a person obtains a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct these certificates automatically restore one’s right to vote.

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For almost fifty years, The New York City-based Fortune Society has been developing model programs that help former prisoners successfully re-enter their communities.  The Fortune Society offers a holistic and integrated “one-stop-shopping” model of service provision. Among the services offered are discharge planning and reentry services, licensed outpatient substance abuse and mental health treatment, alternatives to incarceration, HIV/AIDS services, career development and job retention, hard skills training, education, family services, drop in services and a continuum of supportive housing as well as ongoing access to aftercare.  For more information, visit www.fortunesociety.org.

The Ohio Organizing Collaborative is a statewide coalition of community organizations, faith institutions, labor unions, and policy groups united to build a transformative base of power to address social, racial, and economic injustice in Ohio. OOC is comprised of 20 organizations with members in every major metropolitan area across the state, working on issues including minimum wage reform, ending mass incarceration, and combatting climate change.

The Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice advocates for reforms to the criminal justice system. We believe the criminal justice system should focus on rehabilitation and not only punishment. Laws should protect society, not penalize poverty, mental illness or underlying substance abuse. Judges must have the ability to fashion sentences that do justice while preserving human dignity and the potential for reentry, and include alternatives to incarceration.

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