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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Professor Cammett's Latest Article to Be Published in the Penn State Law Review

The Boyd School of Law is very pleased to announce that Professor Ann Cammett's latest article (Shadow Citizens: Felony Disenfranchisement and the Criminalization of Debt) will be published in Volume 117 of the Penn State Law Review.

The abstract for Shadow Citizens provides: "In the United States an estimated 5.3 million people are ineligible to vote because they have a criminal conviction. This practice of disenfranchising ex-felons has long been challenged as generally antidemocratic and disproportionately harmful to communities of color. These critiques, in part, have led to the liberalization of state disenfranchisement laws in order to expand voting rights for those who have served their sentences. Despite these legal developments, ex-felons are faced with an increasingly difficult path to regaining the franchise. This article advances a claim with far reaching implications: that mounting criminal justice-related debt serves as an often insurmountable obstacle to the resumption of voting rights for ex-felons, rendering them "shadow citizens." The article shows that economic obstacles to reenfranchisement manifest from corecurring aspects of subordination. One aspect of this paradigm arises from informal, often invisible, barriers to the resumption of social citizenship: persistent race and class stigma, collateral civil consequences, onerous reenfranchisement processes, and finally mounting "carceral debt" stemming from criminal justice involvement. Second, informal barriers are further exacerbated by a disturbing trajectory in reenfranchisement law that has gone virtually unnoticed. States, with the imprimatur of the courts, have recently begun to formally condition the restoration of voting rights on full payment of fines, restitution, court costs, and even unrelated debt such as child support. This practice of "back door" disenfranchisement hinders the resumption of voting rights after a conviction, even when state disenfranchisement schemes no longer serve that purpose. As I demonstrate, it also clearly has a differential impact on the poor. If only those who can pay their debts can regain the fundamental right to vote, those who cannot pay will remain perpetually disenfranchised, unleashing a host of constitutional questions. Moreover, as it applies to ex-felons, these laws are routinely upheld as rationally related to legitimate state interests under an extremely deferential constitutional standard—a relic of felony disenfranchisement jurisprudence that, I argue, should be reconsidered given the crisis of diminished democratic participation."

The article's full citation is: Ann Cammett, Shadow Citizens: Felony Disenfranchisement and the Criminalization of Debt, 117 Penn St. L. Rev __ (forthcoming 2012). Congratulations, Ann!