Promoting social change is important for enhancing the social well-being. There are numerous social issues that need to be addressed nowadays, and the disenfranchisement of ex-felons is one of them. In this paper, we will describe this problem and, after providing a brief review of advice from literature, will offer some recommendations about how to deal with it.
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Ex-Felons Disenfranchisement as a Societal Issue
The U.S. is one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to disenfranchising ex-felons. While disenfranchisement is not obligatory on the federal level, many states choose to strip ex-felons of their voting rights. The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world (Bisman, 2004, p. 110), and most criminal sentences in the U.S. are the result of a plea bargain; it is estimated that many innocents go to prison this way (Pilkington, 2012). In addition, it is clear that poor people are more probable to be imprisoned, because they are more likely to become suspects of a crime and to be offered and accept a plea bargain (without the trial) than e.g. members of the middle or upper social classes.
It is important to “enhanc[e] the general well-being of society and of the individuals and groups within it” (Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, 2000, para. 6), “to enhance the quality of life in the society” (American Counseling Association, 2005, p. 2), and “to enhance human well-being… with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed” (National Association of Social Workers, 2008, para. 1). Contrary to what happens in practice, the prison should be a rehabilitation institution. Because the ex-felons disenfranchisement strips many people of their basic political rights instead of providing rehabilitation, it is our opinion that it should not be practiced.
The Expert Recommendations from Literature
According to Abramovitz (1998), many people working with social problems are often forced to either adjust people to circumstances or promote change in the existing system. Hyde (2004) states that leadership development (in particular, cultivating new leaders) is one of the ways of promoting change (pp. 12-13). When promoting change or acting upon various social issues, it is also essential to “mak[e] your efforts known” (Homan, 2016, p. 323). With regards to the issue of ex-felons disenfranchisement, it appears that the only way to deal with it is to promote change in the existing system (on the federal level or at least on the level of separate states), because the voting rights are stripped according to the state laws. Therefore, social advocacy methods need to be used to address this problem.
Applying Change, Leadership, and Advocacy to Implement the Recommendations
From the recommendations given in the literature, it is possible to see that social advocacy (i.e., promoting change within the political and social system) can be used to deal with the problem of ex-felons disenfranchisement. Leadership development and promoting new leaders who would address the problem can be employed (Hyde, 2004); but it appears faster, easier and more realistic to gather some people who would be against the disenfranchisement (it is possible to do so in the environment of social workers or by using e.g. the social media) and organize a political campaign (e.g., peaceful demonstrations, petitions, etc.) demanding that the disenfranchisement should be banned. It is crucial to spread information about these activities (Homan, 2016), preferably through large media (e.g., newspapers, the Web, television), for instance, by inviting journalists to demonstrations, in order to make the issue the spotlight, gather more followers, and gain more influence on those who are responsible for adopting laws.
To sum up, ex-felons disenfranchisement is a harmful practice that strips numerous people of their basic political rights. It is important to ban this practice, and social advocacy can be employed for this purpose. In particular, it is possible to gather a politically active group that would organize social campaigns against disenfranchisement. While doing so, it is crucial to make this group’s activities known, preferably via the (large) media.
Abramovitz, M. (1998). Social work and social reform: An arena of struggle. Social Work, 43(6), 512-526. Web.
Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. (2000). Code of ethics. Web.
American Counseling Association. (2005). ACA code of ethics. Web.
Bisman, C. (2004). Social work values: The moral core of the profession. British Journal of Social Work, 34(1), 109-123. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bch008. Web.
Homan, M. S. (2016). Promoting community change: Making it happen in the real world (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. Web.
Hyde, C. A. (2004). Multicultural development in human services agencies: Challenges and solutions. Social Work, 49(1), 7-16. Web.
National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Web.
Pilkington, E. (2012). Felon voting laws to disenfranchise historic number of Americans in 2012. Web.