According to the criminologists Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen, the question of how to reintegrate felons back into civil society stands at the forefront in the debates over criminal justice policy. Certain other criminologists, most famously Robert Sampson and John Laub, have argued for the importance of family support and work availability upon release as factors that lead to a permanent cessation of crime. Manza and Uggen suggest that the issue of civic reintegration is also critical in encouraging former prisoners to become active, productive members of civil society.
Former felons who lose the right to exercise full membership in society, including the right to vote, hold elective office, or serve on a jury, feel alienated from the very society into which they have been reintegrated. The sense of alienation is exacerbated by the fact that these same criminals are then expected to contribute taxes to the very domains of public life from which they have been disenfranchised, while supporting a civic community that collectively despises them. The result is to eliminate the former criminal’s sense of commitment to or feelings of inclusion in civic society, which greatly increases the likelihood that they will commit crime again.
Manza and Uggen’s research has directly linked citizenship with desistance from criminal behavior. In their monograph, Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy, they state that “This denial [of citizenship], in turn, makes performing the duties of citizenship difficult (pg. 127).” The uphill battle that former criminals face makes it very difficult for even the most reform-minded of them to positively contribute to their communities. Eliminating post incarceration penalties, such as denial of the right to vote, significantly diminished career opportunities, social stigma, limited housing availability, and so on, will prevent the proliferation of offenses committed by the criminal population after release.
This information should help you narrow down a list of six reasons why criminals should not lose their citizenship.