Imprisonment and Neighborhood Political Participation
Author: Traci Burch
By 2007, more than 2.25 million people were in prison in the United States. In an election year where every vote counts and our political system seems poised for a dramatic change, it is imperative that we seek to understand how this increasing frequency with which Americans are sent to correctional facilities affects voter registration and turnout. Removing people from their homes and sending them to prison obviously hinders their ability to participate in politics. But what about the people they leave behind? This project will explore whether the removal and incarceration of individuals depresses voter registration and turnout not only among convicted offenders, but also among their families, friends and neighbors. The study explores participation in the 2008 general election among individual offenders and for communities in which residents were incarcerated in the months leading up to the election. The study focuses primarily on the short-term effects of incarceration for neighborhood political participation. The study will draw upon existing data from Departments of Correction, Boards of Elections, the U.S. Census Bureau and extensive new and unique fieldwork currently underway.