…liberals should not rest on their laurels. Two great battles remain to be fought, one in the area of caste and the other in the area of class….
The right to life is the most basic of all, so the abolition of the death penalty at the federal and state levels should be at the top of a new agenda of criminal justice reform. According to Amnesty International, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty. The U.S. is consistently among the countries with the greatest number of executions — joined by those paragons of liberty and democracy, Iran and China.
Second only to the abolition of the death penalty in the United States should be an end to the permanent forfeiture of voting rights. People who have served out their punishment should be allowed to return to society as fully functioning citizens, not permanently relegated to a legal and political underclass. And tyrannical majorities should not be allowed to disenfranchise specific populations indirectly, as white majorities have sometimes sought to do, by connecting the forfeiture of voting rights to minor offenses like drug possession committed disproportionately by minorities and the poor. According to the Sentencing Project, one in 13 African-Americans is disenfranchised as a result of a prior conviction; the numbers are even higher in Virginia (20 percent), Kentucky (22 percent) and Florida (23 percent).