11/13/2013 02:47 pm ET

Ex-Cons Should Have Right To Vote, Access To College Loans: Report

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One of the keys to keeping felons out of prison is letting them go to the ballot box, according to a new report.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released a report this week with recommendations on how to ease re-entry for ex-convicts and prevent them from going back behind bars.

One of the report's recommendations is extending the right to vote to all offenders, even felons, once they've done their time. The report cites the American Civil Liberty's assertion that:

Studies have shown that the benefits of voting are numerous. Individuals who vote generally help to make their communities safer and more vibrant by giving to charity, volunteering, attending school board meetings, serving on juries and participating more actively in their communities.

Despite these studies, the Leadership Conference reports that several, mostly Southern states still ban convicted felons from ever voting.

The report also recommends allowing convicts to apply for federal Pell Grants to help pay for college. They are currently barred from doing so under the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, barring those who were or had been incarcerated from receiving college financial aid from the government.

"Numerous studies, over several decades, have shown that the more education an incarcerated person receives, the less likely he or she is to return to prison upon release, and the more likely he or she is to earn a living wage once released," the report said.

There are surely those wary of doling out federal subsidies to criminals, but they might find it easier to stomach if they look at the cost of incarceration, which is, according to Think Progress, the fastest growing expenditure for states besides Medicaid.

Essentially, fewer people behind bars means lower costs for tax payers. More broadly, the report recommends that lawmakers see incarceration issues through the lens of human rights, not criminal justice.

"For those caught within the system of mass-incarceration, too often basic human rights ... are denied," the report said. "Because of the disproportionate effect on racial minorities, too often civil rights also end up being sacrificed."



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