Political science professors Hannah L. Walker and Michael Leo Owens allege that formerly incarcerated individuals tend to be more politically involved in regions with abundant non-profit organizations that support their re-entry efforts.
They used data that had been gathered through an online survey done by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois during August and September of 2014. According to the article, the study focused on a sampling of 1,275 eligible voters from Chicago “because, as Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson once observed, the city’s patterns ‘are broadly consistent with trends in crime and incarceration throughout the United States.’”
The survey asked participants about their contact with law enforcement and involvement in the criminal justice system: 11 percent acknowledged having been either stopped or questioned, and 5 percent had been on probation or parole, in jail or in prison.
Those surveyed claimed to have taken part in some sort of political activity or civil action.
For instance, 49 percent of those questioned by police signed a petition, and 14 percent attended a protest, according to the article.
The professors found that former prisoners with ties to nonprofit organizations were more politically involved than those with no ties.
The professors reviewed records from the Chicago Police Department’s 270 police beats, subareas within the 25 districts. They measured the number of nonprofit felon-friendly groups, felony conviction rates, and the extent to which the community participated and collaborated with the police.
They also discovered that areas with more nonprofits and high rates of felony convictions had more collaboration between the community and law enforcement.
They believe that their findings show that “involuntary contact with the criminal justice system reduces voting, for individuals and communities. [However], results suggest that civic groups may help citizens re-engage with politics after having been incarcerated.”
On Sept. 21, members from different nonprofit groups, officers from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, and numerous other Bay Area police departments ventured into San Quentin State Prison to build community ties that promote public safety and civil engagement with people still incarcerated.
San Quentin News collaborated with KTVU’s Paul Chambers, who hosts these community-law enforcement events called “Barbershop Dialogues.” The objective is to build relationships between citizens and the police that serve their communities.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, where cops want to help you,” said Louie—-, an inmate participant. “I didn’t know that there were so many resources that law enforcement has to offer.”
The Bay Area has an abundance of nonprofits dedicated to human rights, civil rights and equal opportunity, which also help promote public safety by addressing community concerns.
“These people actually heard us out and had some answers to my questions,” said David Navarez, another inmate participant. “I definitely want to get involved in whatever group activities they got to help prevent gang and gun violence in the neighborhoods.”