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New Felon Disenfranchisement Report, SD Drops Reentry Program That Cuts Recidivism, and States to Execute Mentally Disabled

July 13th, 2012 by Taylor Walker


The Sentencing Project released a new report on felon disenfranchisement in the US, Thursday. According to the report, 5.85 million people were disenfranchised as of 2010–up from 1.17 million in 1976.

You can read the full report here, and you can listen to a discussion on the report and its implications by the executive director of The Sentencing Report, Marc Mauer, along with the University of Minnesota’s Chair of Sociology, Christopher Uggen, and a disenfranchised law student, Desmond Meade. (Yes, it’s long, but it’s worth listening to!) Here are some of the report’s highlights:

--Approximately 2.5 percent of the total U.S. voting age population – 1 of every 40 adults – is disenfranchised due to a current or previous felony conviction.

-Rates of disenfranchisement vary dramatically by state due to broad variations in voting prohibitions. In six states – Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia – more than 7 percent of the adult population is disenfranchised.

-1 of every 13 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate more than four times greater than non-African Americans. Nearly 7.7 percent of the adult African American population is disenfranchised compared to 1.8 percent of the non-African American population.

-African American disenfranchisement rates also vary significantly by state. In three states – Florida (23 percent), Kentucky (22 percent), and Virginia (20 percent) – more than one in five African Americans is disenfranchised.


The San Diego Prisoner Reentry Program, recently discontinued due to lack of funding, cut non-violent felony recidivism rates by 17%. The program ran for five years and saved an estimated $10M in prisoner costs.

Scoop San Diego has the story. Here’s a clip:

The San Diego Prisoner Reentry Program, authorized under California Senate Bill 618, cut recidivism among non-violent felony offenders by 17 percent, resulting in savings of $10 million over five years, according to a new study released by the SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Division.

The findings from this study’s final report, Improving Reentry for Ex-Offenders in San Diego County, are particularly relevant as local jurisdictions grapple with an influx of ex-offenders being shifted from state oversight to local supervision under state Assembly Bill 109. The population served by the Reentry Program is similar to the population shifted by the public safety realignment.

Under the San Diego Prisoner Reentry Program, which operated from February 2007 through June 2012 (when funding was discontinued), participants received intensive support services to help them with housing, employment, drug treatment, and other needs.


Texas and Georgia each have particularly controversial executions scheduled for next Wednesday–one prisoner with clear evidence of brain damage, and the other declared mentally retarded by a state judge.

The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Next Wednesday, July 18, reckons to be another banner day in the history of capital punishment in America. Sometime between 6 p.m. and midnight, the state of Texas is scheduled to execute a convicted murderer named Yokamon Hearn, a man who has, since early childhood, shown clear and consistent evidence of brain damage. And at 7 p.m., the state of Georgia plans to execute a convicted murderer named Warren Hill, who years ago was deemed by a veteran state judge to be mentally retarded.

These executions will take place, absent extraordinary Supreme Court or gubernatorial intervention, because federal and state judges at lower levels of our nation’s justice system have perversely interpreted recent United States Supreme Court decisions. Whereas the Justices have tried in the past few years to give men like Hearn and Hill more access to meaningful appellate review, judicial obstructionists down below have refused to apply either the letter or the spirit of the new procedural rules.

In Texas, the perpetually rogue Fifth Circuit, in an opinion dripping with disdain for the justices in Washington, has just refused to apply the precedent established in Martinez v. Ryan, a Supreme Court decision issued in March that sought to expand appellate rights for defendants like Hearn. In Georgia, meanwhile, the state supreme court has refused to designate Hill as mentally retarded, scoffing at the mandate of Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court’s ruling banning the execution of the mentally retarded.

Graph taken from The Sentencing Project.

Posted in Civil Rights, Courts, crime and punishment, Death Penalty, race, Realignment, Reentry, Supreme Court | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. The Truth Says:

    Here’s the part of the mentally ill execution story that WLA failed to post:

    Associated Press

    HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Frank Meziere had watched a Dallas Mavericks basketball game at a restaurant with a friend and before heading home stopped at a self-service car wash to clean his black Mustang convertible.

    The 23-year-old Plano stockbroker, a 1996 Texas A&M University graduate, never made it home.

    His body was found the next day, March 26, 1998, along the side of a road in an industrial area of Oak Cliff, an area of south Dallas. He had been shot in the head 10 times. His car was found about five miles away, abandoned and with the lights on.

    “Having dealt with murders, you think you’ve seen it all,” said Jason January, a former Dallas County assistant district attorney. “But this innocent victim was shot almost for sport.

    “It was just the sheer overkill of the thing that was ludicrous.”

    Yokamon Hearn bragged to friends about how he “domed” Meziere, meaning he shot him in the head. Hearn was set to die Thursday evening for the slaying.

    He would be the ninth condemned Texas prisoner to receive lethal injection this year and the second in as many nights.

    In an appeal filed this week, lawyers for Hearn said the inmate may be mentally retarded and asked the courts to halt the punishment so they can pursue their claim. The U.S. Supreme Court has barred execution of the mentally retarded. Prosecutors said questions about Hearn’s mental competence never surfaced previously.

    Hearn, 25, refused to speak with reporters as his execution date neared. The U.S. Supreme Court in November denied his request seeking a review of his case.

    “It’s hard sometimes to know what a death penalty case is, but after a while you know one when you see it,” said January, the lead prosecutor at Hearn’s trial. “And this just screamed out for the death penalty.”

    Dallas jurors agreed, deliberating less than an hour to convict Hearn and about an hour before deciding on punishment.

    Hearn was 19 at the time of the crime and had a lengthy record that included burglary, robbery, assault, a sexual assult and weapons possession.

    “I remember having a big map of the city showing places he had hit and pulled guns on people,” January recalled this week. “He was an equal opportunity carjacker — women, black, white, everybody.”

    Hearn, along with two other Dallas men and one woman from Oklahoma City, were seen on a security camera video at a convenience store adjacent to the car wash. They had been out looking for someone to carjack, authorities said.

    According to testimony at his trial, Hearn drove Meziere’s car after he and companion Delvin Diles forced the victim into the car. The two others, Dwight Burley and Teresa Shirley, were in a second car in a convoy that took them to an area near Dallas’ wastewater treatment plant. Meziere was shot there with a Tec-9 automatic, then with a .22-caliber pistol. Hearn drove off with his car.

    Shirley, driver of the second car, testified Meziere had his arms raised near his head and appeared to beg for his life as Hearn swung the Tec-9, a 9 mm assault-style rifle stolen from an apartment the previous day, back and forth before opening fire. After the victim hit the ground, Hearn shot him several more times, she said. Diles added some shots from his revolver.

    Hearn drove off with Meziere’s car and kept the victim’s license. A witness testified at his trial that Hearn later bragged at a party about the shooting.

    Physical evidence linked both Hearn and Diles to the car.

    Diles, 19 at the time, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to consecutive life terms for Meziere’s death and an unrelated aggravated robbery. He and Hearn were arrested within days of the slaying.

    Shirley, then 19, and Burley, then 20, were arrested more than eight months later. Each pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and received 10-year prison sentences.

    Hearn was to head to the death chamber 24 hours after convicted killer Marcus Cotton, 29, received lethal injection for fatally shooting Gil Epstein, 27, a Fort Bend County assistant district attorney, during a robbery in Houston in 1996.


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