My name is Ramiah Whiteside and I am a Community Organizer/Coordinator for EXPO; "Ex-incarcerated People Organizing." EXPO is a group led by directly impacted people who are committed to dismantling all systems that support mass incarceration and excessive supervision. We are dedicated to creating systems with policies that build healthy families and safe communities.
EXPO is a statewide effort. Throughout the year, EXPO offers leadership training opportunities for formerly incarcerated people. EXPO recruits, trains, and supports people with conviction histories to be part of the movement for change.
EXPO has played a pivotal role with the following:
• Ban the box for federal jobs
• Ban the box for local jobs in Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine
• Expand TAD funding (Treatment Alternatives and Diversions)
• Reduce the use of solitary confinement in WI prisons
• Expand funding for WI transitional jobs program
Other campaigns include:
• End crimeless revocations
• Restore the Vote/Unlock the Vote
• FREE- Lifting women's experience with incarceration and reentry
As a directly impacted person, currently on Parole Supervision, I am barred from voting. In fact, I will not be eligible to vote for at least another fifteen years. Along with me, there are over 40,000 additional Wisconsinites currently on felony supervision who are ineligible to vote. My case had nothing to do with voting. Reinstating my voting rights does not endanger the community in any way. My taxes are paid in full. My community engagement is far above average. In addition to my job, I also volunteer in the community. Even if I discovered the cure for ALL cancer and could change water to wine, I would still not be allowed to vote. While this is not the classic voting disenfranchisement, it is still a form of voter suppression.
Why is this relevant or important to anyone else?
Voter suppression to one of us is suppression of all of us! Our Country was established on the premise that we would not allow a monarchy to tax us and then not represent us (taxation without representation).
Today, we witness the effects of years of a myriad of systemic inequalities. EXPO has stood in solidarity with many other organizations locally and nationally to bring about changes in our Criminal Justice System. The data is overwhelmingly clear when we look at the arrest and conviction rates for minorities compared to everyone else. The data is overwhelmingly clear when we look at all of the disparities minorities suffer just because of their skin color or zip code. When we are not allowed the right to vote, we are unable to represent the priorities that we have in our communities. When we are not allowed to represent our communities, someone not from our communities makes laws that disproportionately HURT our communities. From years of felony disenfranchisement, our Black communities have been redistricted from an abhorrent system of gerrymandering. The right to vote is critical in rebuilding the Black Community. To that end, help EXPO Unlock the Vote!
Relational Organizer Fellow/EXPO