Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Voting Seminar Held At House of Correction

HOC inmates learn about their voting rights, get to pose with Bucks championship trophy.

By - Mar 30th, 2022 09:43 am

County Executive David Crowley at House of Correction. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

The Milwaukee County House of Correction (HOC) gave a handful of the men incarcerated there the opportunity to see a presentation on their voting rights, and, as a sweetener, have their picture taken with the Milwaukee Bucks’ NBA Championship Trophy.

The event was put together by a partnership between the county, the Bucks, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the League of Women Voters. The aim was to provide some education about the eligibility of people that are incarcerated to vote.

In Wisconsin, people incarcerated for misdemeanors do not lose their eligibility to vote, and people who have been convicted of felonies can regain their right to vote after they are off probation or parole.

A few dozen HOC residents heard a presentation from Sean Wilson, organizing director for Dream Corps JUSTICE, about elections and their importance, especially to people who are incarcerated. After he finished, Molly McGrath, a voting rights attorney with the ACLU, explained the state’s laws surrounding voting for people caught in the justice system.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley captured the general message of the event, when he said, “Even when you are incarcerated in a place like this, you still have the ability to vote for people who have a direct impact on your lives.”

Freddie Carter, currently incarcerated at the HOC, said he regularly votes but many of the young men at the presentation Tuesday do not. Another resident told Urban Milwaukee that he’s never voted before.

During his presentation, Wilson expanded on Crowley’s statement, explaining that the right to vote gives some of the incarcerated men sitting in a gym at the HOC Tuesday the ability to have a say in picking the people directly involved in running the criminal justice system; like judges, district attorneys and sheriffs.

Maxine Webb, director of development and strategic operations for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said this was the first event of its kind in Wisconsin, where a jail voting seminar involved a major local organization like a professional basketball team. The long term aim, she said, is to replicate events like this in correctional facilities across the state.

Local staff with the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin will pick up where this seminar left off and return to the HOC to help register eligible people there to vote.

Inmates at the House of Correction lining up to have their picture taken with the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Photo taken March 29, 2022 by Graham Kilmer.

Inmates at the House of Correction lining up to have their picture taken with the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Photo taken March 29, 2022 by Graham Kilmer.

After the presentation, the men gathered were able to have their picture taken with the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Bucks President Peter Feigin said their involvement in the event was “part of our social justice slash voting initiative slash awareness in the community initiative as a team.”

Mark Briggs, another HOC resident, said he was a “little surprised” when he heard about the voting seminar and that the county executive and the Bucks organization would be involved. He said the event had a “great message” and “great speakers.”

“It’s not every day that someone comes in to inform incarcerated people what their rights are, tell them why it’s important to exercise them and that it matters that they do. Certainly, it’s rare that they come with the president of a professional basketball team and the team’s championship trophy,” Briggs said.

“It helps galvanize our spirits. A lot of us have a lot going on in our personal lives, and this type of event really humanizes us a little more,” he added. “It gets us a voice that is usually a little muted, because we’re taken away from the community.”

Briggs said he’d like to see more visitors and organizations come to the HOC to provide programming around education and job training.

What Briggs expressed was in part the intent of the session. County Executive Crowley said the trophy was a way to tell staff at the HOC and the residents that they’re not forgotten.

One thought on “MKE County: Voting Seminar Held At House of Correction”

  1. DKD says:

    When will the women inmates get this presentation? Their votes count too.

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