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From Montgomery to Los Angeles and Beyond:
Formerly Incarcerated People Building a Movement
By Kenneth Glasgow and Dorsey Nunn, AlterNet
Would you feel like a full citizen if most of your civil and human rights
were denied you? If the privileges afforded to community members
were withheld from you, would you feel like a welcome member of
the community? Probably not.
As formerly incarcerated people, every day is another reminder that
we do not have full access to our civil and human rights. Having
served our sentences and returned home, we face circumstances
that often seem designed to prevent our full participation in our
communities and country: stigma for having a criminal conviction.
Barriers to gaining meaningful employment and decent housing.
Barriers to constructive educational opportunities. Lack of access
to healthcare. Denial of our voting rights.
This is a widespread problem. Consider this: there are nearly 2.4 million
people incarcerated in prisons and jails in the U.S. today. Most people
currently incarcerated are coming home -- according to the Department of
Justice, over 700,000 people were released from incarceration in 2006
alone. Across the country, over five million people are under state
supervision like parole or probation. There are millions of people who are
currently and formerly incarcerated, and millions more who were never
incarcerated but have a criminal conviction--all of whom live, every day,
without our full civil and human rights.
What happens when people's civil and human rights are denied for too
long? Movements for change spark and catch fire.
As we near the 46th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March over the
Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma , Alabama , we're reminded of the Civil
Rights Movement. For nearly 100 years after the end of chattel slavery,
Black people were denied their human and civil rights, including the right
to vote. People got tired and organized all over the country to win their
rights. In Alabama , the movement was especially vibrant.