Jesse Jackson: States Are ‘Undermining the Right to Vote' With For-Profit Prisons

By Eric Scheiner | January 27, 2015 | 8:18 AM EST

FILE - July 26, 2013, file photo, Rev. Jesse Jackson (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

( - The Rev. Jesse Jackson says the states are “undermining the right to vote" by locking up people in for-profit prisons.

Jackson joined House Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) at a press conference in Washington last Thursday where they introduced a constitutional amendment that would put elections under federal control to guarantee the right to vote to every American, including those in prison.

In a video posted by House Democrats, Jackson says that several states are purposely disenfranchising certain voters: “And now they’re (unintelligible)…targeting people for arrest in these for-profit prisons, you take away their liberty and then disenfranchise them from voting,” Jackson says.

“So the impact of those who are no longer eligible to vote is now 6 million, so undermining the right to vote while locking up people... is the most egregious in the whole world.”

In an interview with the Nation last July, Jackson criticized what he called "the jail-industrial complex."

"Most of these states now, they're using privatized jails for two purposes: one, to disenfranchise voters, because once you’ve been to jail it’s more difficult to vote. And two, it’s a profit-making industry. So that, if you’re in jail “x” number of days, the Corrections Corporation of America gets paid. They must be guaranteed 90 percent occupancy. Jail becomes a daycare center or a homeless shelter for so many people. It’s a profit-making industry -- jails are for profit. And so the growth of the jail industry and also in many places, the jail labor force, undermines the domestic labor force.

Jackson last week said that voting rights vary from state to state. “We have the right to vote. You may have it in New York but you don’t have it necessarily in Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama,” Jackson said.

“I think it's Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama -- they do the King Day (holiday) and the Robert E. Lee on the same day. The manipulations are very much evident.”

The proposed constitutional amendment is in response to the Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder case in 2013. That Supreme Court ruling outlawed part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required certain states with a history of racial discrimination at the polls to clear any changes to voting laws with the federal government before taking action.

The proposed amendment could eliminate state control of elections and put it in under the authority of the federal government.

The amendment says, "Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides."

"Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.''

Eric Scheiner
Eric Scheiner
Eric is the Senior Video Producer for

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