Living in Infamy: Felon Disfranchisement and the History of American Citizenship examines the history of disfranchisement for criminal conviction in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the post-war South, white southern Democrats expanded the usage of laws disfranchising for crimes of infamy in order to deny African Americans the suffrage rights due them as citizens, employing historical similarities between the legal statuses of slaves and convicts as justification. At the same time, our nation's criminal code changed. The inhumane treatment of prisoners, the expansion of the prison system, the public nature of punishment by forced labor, and the abandonment of the idea of reform and rehabilitation of prisoners all contributed to a national consensus that certain categories of criminals should be permanently disfranchised.A few blurbs:
As racial barriers to suffrage were challenged and fell, rights remained restricted for persons targeted by such infamy laws. Criminal convictions-in place of race-continued the disparity in legal status between whites and African Americans. Decades later, after race-based disfranchisement has officially ended, legislation steeped in a legacy of racial discrimination continues to perpetuate a dichotomy of suffrage and citizenship that is still effecting our election outcomes today.
"Historians, legal scholars, and public policymakers will all profit from reading this fascinating account of the origins and development of felon disfranchisement in the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Based on prodigious research in previously unexplored sources, Living in Infamy meticulously shows how ideas about race, class, and social status, together with partisan political maneuvering, continue to shape attempts to engage in voter suppression in the twenty-first century. It deftly complicates our notions of who gets to practice citizenship." --Steven F. Lawson, author of Running for Freedom
"Living in Infamy is an outstanding introduction to the complicated racial politics that birthed felon disfranchisement laws and ultimately relegated millions to second-class status in the United States. This meticulous, impeccable history is packed with fresh insights about how we, as a nation, managed to fall so far short of our democratic ideals. A must-read for all those who hope to understand why so many Americans are still denied the most basic and fundamental of all rights: the right to vote."--Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow