Our Voices > We Are DC

Voting Prepares Us to Return as Invested Citizens

May 26, 2022

The perspective of

Robert Barton

Incarcerated at

USP Coleman 1
in Florida

Year incarcerated


What do you want the broader DC community to know about you? About the broader community of DC residents behind bars?

I'm invested in returning home and being a help to my community. I'm trying to start now, and to help others do the same, by being civically engaged (such as by voting, now made possible by D.C.'s Restore the Vote Act) and in tune with the issues.

Why is it important for DC residents still incarcerated — and you in particular — to have a say in who makes decisions for the District?

Civic engagement is the responsibility of citizens, so voting (and the education needed to do so on an informed basis) prepares us to return home as invested members of our community and the country. The more we practice citizenship, the more invested we will feel in our societies, instead of feeling like we live on the margins. In addition, if D.C. officials (and residents) want us to be law-abiding citizens, we need to be able to get jobs, housing, etc. And to do that some changes in laws are needed. We know the solutions that need, and thus can contribute to effective policymaking that will make all of D.C. more peaceful and productive for everyone.

As an incarcerated resident, what one to three issues do you most want DC candidates/officials to address?

1) Continuing and supporting the implementation of laws like IRAA and Second Look, that offer second chances to people like me who have been incarcerated for a long time and are ready to return home. 2) Local control of parole, rather than ceding that authority to a federal body that defaults to further incarceration no matter how rehabilitated a person is. 3) Subsidized housing for returned citizens, who often come out of prison with no money, no credit history and a record that can be used as grounds for automatic refusal by landlords.

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