It was very transparent of Merrill Matthews to use the most notorious and brutal examples of murderers to sway opinion about who should vote (“Should prisoners have the right to vote?” May 10). I assure you, had John William “Bill” King had the right to vote before James Byrd was avenged by the state it would not have led to his release.
Nor would inmate voting lead to any of the most disruptive members of our society being back on the streets prowling for victims. Suggesting it would lines up with all of the dramatically falsified information people receive from television about criminality and incarceration. It’s pure sensationalism. This frame of reference can be manipulated from any narrow view.
Who would the incarcerated vote for? Liberals? Independents? Green Party? Other convicts who might take over the world?
What would be the worst thing to happen if convicts had a voice? You might humanize them? This wouldn’t lead to a mass exodus like a Batman movie.
It is commonplace to paint murderers in the broadest strokes because it’s easier to hide the complexities of people and their problems. What a privilege it is to be so detached; to be able to point the finger and blame societal misfits for the darkness that flows through us all. I wonder how many inmates, or convicts, Matthews knows?
The criminal justice system’s manner of mass incarceration is a systemic failure. To zero in on the most vile end of the spectrum in order to make a point is myopic and unscholarly. Yet, I understand the point. I deal with the gravity of guilt for what I have taken out of this world every day. And I don’t know how to attempt to put a dent in the insurmountable debt I owe; not to the state but to humanity. Does this system really work?
Every time there is a heinous crime the whole lot of us cringe because we know that this example will be the poster child for all convicts. To marginalize an entire population and disregard the individual efforts toward growth and change is to negate the idea of rehabilitation — an idea that is in the mission statements of departments of corrections nationwide.
Check the statistics: The vast majority of inmates will be released one day. That’s under the harshness of current laws. So how do you ensure the safety of society once “these people” are buying groceries in your neighborhood?
I’d cast my vote for the representative who had my interests in mind, just like you. Shouldn’t the point be to invest in making sure my interests are stable and responsible no matter where I live? Let’s not even broach the history of carceral impact on minority and impoverished populations, not to mention voter suppression tactics.
There is a truth to what Matthews says about the “worst” type of people. I’ve been incarcerated since 2003 and even though I’m in Minnesota I’ve met some people so dark inside they seem beyond repair. Yet most of those people are the ones going home or working in the prison system camouflaged.
I also know guys who have earned masters’ degrees, devote their voices to programs like Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop (MPWW), work tirelessly in restorative justice efforts and selflessly invest in the youth who come through. I suggest Matthews sign up for the Amicus program or attend MPWW’s annual reading at Hamline. Better yet, I have room on my visiting list to represent the other end of the spectrum.
I stand accountable for what I’ve done, and I know that surviving a terrible place at a terrible taxpayer expense isn’t serving anything and most certainly isn’t honoring my victims.
Giving inmates a voice wouldn’t absolve them of anything. How else can we mend what’s broken?
And even if I’m given the power to vote I don’t know if I have any faith left in a system that won’t allow me to pay forward on the real debt I owe while I’m incarcerated.
Thank you for the avenue.
C. Fausto Cabrera is incarcerated at MCF-Rush City for second-degree murder.